While describing this visit to the Carmel, my thoughts are carried
back to the first one which I paid after Pauline entered. On the
morning of that happy day, I wondered what name would be given to
me later on. I knew that there was already a Sister Teresa of
Jesus; nevertheless, my beautiful name of Thérèse could not be
taken from me. Suddenly I thought of the Child Jesus whom I loved
so dearly, and I felt how much I should like to be called Teresa
of the Child Jesus. I was careful not to tell you of my wish, dear
Mother, yet you said to me, in the middle of our conversation:
“When you come to us, little one, you will be called ‘Teresa of
the Child Jesus.'” My joy was great indeed. This happy coincidence
of thought seemed a special favour from the Holy Child.

So far I have not said anything about my love for pictures and
books, and yet I owe some of the happiest and strongest
impressions which have encouraged me in the practice of virtue to
the beautiful pictures Pauline used to show me. Everything was
forgotten while looking at them. For instance, “The Little Flower
of the Divine Prisoner” suggested so many thoughts that I would
remain gazing at it in a kind of ecstasy. I offered myself to Our
Lord to be His Little Flower; I longed to console Him, to draw as
near as possible to the Tabernacle, to be looked on, cared for,
and gathered by Him.

As I was of no use at games, I should have preferred to spend all
my time in reading. Happily for me, I had visible guardian angels
to guide me in this matter; they chose books suitable to my age,
which interested me and at the same time provided food for my
thoughts and affections. I was only allowed a limited time for
this favourite recreation, and it became an occasion of much
self-sacrifice, for as soon as the time had elapsed I made it my
duty to stop instantly, even in the middle of a most interesting

As to the impressions produced on me by these books, I must
frankly own that, in reading certain tales of chivalry, I did not
always understand the realities of life. And so, in my admiration
of the patriotic deeds of the heroines of France, especially of
the Venerable Joan of Arc, I longed to do what they had done.
About this time I received what I have looked on as one of the
greatest graces of my life, for, at that age, I was not favoured
with lights from Heaven, as I am now.

Our Lord made me understand that the only true glory is that which
lasts for ever; and that to attain it there is no necessity to do
brilliant deeds, but rather to hide from the eyes of others, and
even from oneself, so that “the left hand knows not what the right
hand does.”[1] Then, as I reflected that I was born for great
things, and sought the means to attain them, it was made known to
me interiorly that my personal glory would never reveal itself
before the eyes of men, but that it would consist in becoming a

This aspiration may very well appear rash, seeing how imperfect I
was, and am, even now, after so many years of religious life; yet
I still feel the same daring confidence that one day I shall
become a great Saint. I am not trusting in my own merits, for I
have none; but I trust in Him Who is Virtue and Holiness itself.
It is He alone Who, pleased with my feeble efforts, will raise me
to Himself, and, by clothing me with His merits, make me a Saint.
At that time I did not realise that to become one it is necessary
to suffer a great deal; but God soon disclosed this secret to me
by means of the trials I have related.

I must now continue my story where I left off. Three months after
my cure Papa took me away for a change. It was a very pleasant
time, and I began to see something of the world. All around me was
joy and gladness; I was petted, made much of, admired—in fact,
for a whole fortnight my path was strewn with flowers. The Wise
Man is right when he says: “The bewitching of vanity overturneth
the innocent mind.”[2] At ten years of age the heart is easily
fascinated, and I confess that in my case this kind of life had
its charms. Alas! the world knows well how to combine its
pleasures with the service of God. How little it thinks of death!
And yet death has come to many people I knew then, young, rich,
and happy. I recall to mind the delightful places where they
lived, and ask myself where they are now, and what profit they
derive to-day from the beautiful houses and grounds where I saw
them enjoying all the good things of this life, and I reflect that
“All is vanity besides loving God and serving Him alone.”[3]

Perhaps Our Lord wished me to know something of the world before
He paid His first visit to my soul, so that I might choose more
deliberately the way in which I was to follow Him.

I shall always remember my First Communion Day as one of unclouded
happiness. It seems to me that I could not have been better
prepared. Do you remember, dear Mother, the charming little book
you gave me three months before the great day? I found in it a
helpful method which prepared me gradually and thoroughly. It is
true I had been thinking about my First Communion for a long time,
but, as your precious manuscript told me, I must stir up in my
heart fresh transports of love and fill it anew with flowers. So,
each day I made a number of little sacrifices and acts of love,
which were to be changed into so many flowers: now violets,
another time roses, then cornflowers, daisies, or
forget-me-nots—in a word, all nature’s blossoms were to form in
me a cradle for the Holy Child.

I had Marie, too, who took Pauline’s place. Every evening I spent
a long time with her, listening eagerly to all she said. How
delightfully she talked to me! I felt myself set on fire by her
noble, generous spirit. As the warriors of old trained their
children in the profession of arms, so she trained me for the
battle of life, and roused my ardour by pointing to the victor’s
glorious palm. She spoke, too, of the imperishable riches which
are so easy to amass each day, and of the folly of trampling them
under foot when one has but to stoop and gather them. When she
talked so eloquently, I was sorry that I was the only one to
listen to her teaching, for, in my simplicity, it seemed to me
that the greatest sinners would be converted if they but heard
her, and that, forsaking the perishable riches of this world, they
would seek none but the riches of Heaven.

I should have liked at this time to practise mental prayer, but
Marie, finding me sufficiently devout, only let me say my vocal
prayers. A mistress at the Abbey asked me once what I did on
holidays, when I stayed at home. I answered timidly: “I often hide
myself in a corner of my room where I can shut myself in with the
bed curtains, and then I think.” “But what do you think about?”
said the good nun, laughing. “I think about the Good God, about
the shortness of life, and about eternity: in a word, I think.”
My mistress did not forget this, and later on she used to remind
me of the time when I thought, asking me if I still thought.
. . . Now, I know that I was really praying, while my Divine
gently instructed me.

The three months’ preparation for First Communion passed quickly
by; it was soon time for me to begin my retreat, and, during it, I
stayed at the Abbey. Oh, what a blessed retreat it was! I do not
think that one can experience such joy except in a religious
house; there, with only a few children, it is easy for each one to
receive special attention. I write this in a spirit of filial
gratitude; our mistresses at the Abbey showed us a true motherly
affection. I do not know why, but I saw plainly that they watched
over me more carefully than they did over the others.

Every night the first mistress, carrying her little lamp, opened
my bed curtains softly, and kissed me tenderly on the forehead.
She showed me such affection that, touched by her kindness, I said
one night: “Mother, I love you so much that I am going to tell you
a great secret.” Then I took from under my pillow the precious
little book you had given me, and showed it to her, my eyes
sparkling with pleasure. She opened it with care, and, looking
through it attentively, told me how privileged I was. In fact,
several times during the retreat, the truth came home to me that
very few motherless children of my age are as lovingly cared for
as I was then.

I listened most attentively to the instructions given us by Father

Domin, and wrote careful notes on them, but I did not put down any

of my own thoughts, as I knew I should remember them quite well.

And so it proved.

How happy I was to attend Divine Office as the nuns did! I was
easily distinguished from my companions by a large crucifix, which
Léonie had given me, and which, like the missionaries, I carried
in my belt. They thought I was trying to imitate my Carmelite
sister, and indeed my thoughts did often turn lovingly to her. I
knew she was in retreat too, not that Jesus might give Himself to
her, but that she might give herself entirely to Jesus, and this
on the same day as I made my First Communion. The time of quiet
waiting was therefore doubly dear to me.

At last there dawned the most beautiful day of all the days of my
life. How perfectly I remember even the smallest details of those
sacred hours! the joyful awakening, the reverent and tender
embraces of my mistresses and older companions, the room filled
with snow-white frocks, where each child was dressed in turn, and,
above all, our entrance into the chapel and the melody of the
morning hymn: “O Altar of God, where the Angels are hovering.”

But I would not and I could not tell you all. Some things lose
their fragrance when exposed to the air, and so, too, one’s inmost
thoughts cannot be translated into earthly words without instantly
losing their deep and heavenly meaning. How sweet was the first
embrace of Jesus! It was indeed an embrace of love. I felt that I
was loved, and I said: “I love Thee, and I give myself to Thee for
ever.” Jesus asked nothing of me, and claimed no sacrifice; for a
long time He and little Thérèse had known and understood one
another. That day our meeting was more than simple recognition, it
was perfect union. We were no longer two. Thérèse had disappeared
like a drop of water lost in the immensity of the ocean; Jesus
alone remained—He was the Master, the King! Had not Thérèse asked
Him to take away her liberty which frightened her? She felt
herself so weak and frail, that she wished to be for ever united
to the Divine Strength.

And then my joy became so intense, so deep, that it could not be
restrained; tears of happiness welled up and overflowed. My
companions were astonished, and asked each other afterwards: “Why
did she cry? Had she anything on her conscience? No, it is because
neither her Mother nor her dearly loved Carmelite sister is here.”
And no one understood that all the joy of Heaven had come down
into one heart, and that this heart, exiled, weak, and mortal as
it was, could not contain it without tears.

How could my Mother’s absence grieve me on my First Communion Day?
As Heaven itself dwelt in my soul, in receiving a visit from Our
Divine Lord I received one from my dear Mother too. Nor was I
crying on account of Pauline’s absence, for we were even more
closely united than before. No, I repeat it—joy alone, a joy too
deep for words, overflowed within me.

During the afternoon I read the act of consecration to Our Lady,
for myself and my companions. I was chosen probably because I had
been deprived of my earthly Mother while still so young. With all
my heart I consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and
asked her to watch over me. She seemed to look lovingly on her
Little Flower and to smile at her again, and I thought of the
visible smile which had once cured me, and of all I owed her. Had
she not herself, on the morning of that 8th of May, placed in the
garden of my soul her Son Jesus—”the Flower of the field and the
Lily of the valleys”?[4]

On the evening of this happy day Papa and I went to the Carmel,
and I saw Pauline, now become the Spouse of Christ. She wore a
white veil like mine and a crown of roses. My joy was unclouded,
for I hoped soon to join her, and at her side to wait for Heaven.

I was pleased with the feast prepared for me at home, and was
delighted with the beautiful watch given to me by Papa. My
happiness was perfect, and nothing troubled the inward peace of my
soul. Night came, and so ended that beautiful day. Even the
brightest days are followed by darkness; one alone will know no
setting, the day of the First and Eternal Communion in our true
Home. Somehow the next day seemed sorrowful. The pretty clothes
and the presents I had received could not satisfy me. Henceforth
Our Lord alone could fill my heart, and all I longed for was the
blissful moment when I should receive Him again.

I made my second Communion on Ascension Day, and had the happiness
of kneeling at the rails between Papa and Marie. My tears flowed
with inexpressible sweetness; I kept repeating those words of St.
Paul: “I live now, not I; but Christ liveth in me.”[5] After this
second visit of Our Lord I longed for nothing else but to receive
Him. Alas! the feasts seemed so far apart. . . .

On the eve of these happy days Marie helped me to prepare, as she
had done for my First Communion. I remember once she spoke of
suffering, and said that in all probability, instead of making me
walk by this road, God, in His goodness, would carry me always
like a little child. Her words came into my mind next day after my
Communion; my heart became inflamed with an ardent desire for
suffering, and I felt convinced that many crosses were in store
for me. Then my soul was flooded with such consolation as I have
never since experienced. Suffering became attractive, and I found
in it charms which held me spellbound, though as yet I did not
appreciate them to the full.

I had one other great wish; it was to love God only, and to find
my joy in Him alone. During my thanksgiving after Holy Communion I
often repeated this passage from the Imitation of Christ: “O my
God, who art unspeakable sweetness, turn for me into bitterness
all the consolations of earth.”[6] These words rose to my lips
quite naturally; I said them like a child, who, without well
understanding, repeats what a friend may suggest. Later on I will
tell you, dear Mother, how Our Lord has been pleased to fulfill my
desire, how He, and He alone, has always been my joy; but if I
were to speak of it now I should have to pass on to my girlhood,
and there is still much to tell you of my early days.

Soon after my First Communion I went into retreat again, before
being confirmed. I prepared myself with the greatest care for the
coming of the Holy Ghost; I could not understand anyone not doing
so before receiving this Sacrament of Love. As the ceremony could
not take place on the day fixed, I had the consolation of
remaining somewhat longer in retreat. How happy I felt! Like the
Apostles, I looked with joy for the promised Comforter, gladdened
by the thought that I should soon be a perfect Christan, and have
the holy Cross, the symbol of this wondrous Sacrament, traced upon
my forehead for eternity. I did not feel the mighty wind of the
first Pentecost, but rather the gentle breeze which the prophet
Elias heard on Mount Horeb. On that day I received the gift of
fortitude in suffering—a gift I needed sorely, for the martyrdom
of my soul was soon to begin.

When these delightful feasts, which can never be forgotten, were
over, I had to resume my life as a day scholar, at the Abbey. I
made good progress with my lessons, and remembered easily the
sense of what I read, but I had the greatest difficulty in
learning by heart; only at catechism were my efforts crowned with
success. The Chaplain called me his little “Doctor of
Theology,”[7] no doubt because of my name, Thérèse.

During recreation I often gave myself up to serious thoughts,
while from a distance I watched my companions at play. This was my
favourite occupation, but I had another which gave me real
pleasure. I would search carefully for any poor little birds that
had fallen dead under the big trees, and I then buried them with
great ceremony, all in the same cemetery, in a special grass plot.
Sometimes I told stories to my companions, and often even the big
girls came to listen; but soon our mistress, very rightly, brought
my career as an orator to an end, saying she wanted us to exercise
our bodies and not our brains. At this time I chose as friends two
little girls of my own age; but how shallow are the hearts of
creatures! One of them had to stay at home for some months; while
she was away I thought about her very often, and on her return I
showed how pleased I was. However, all I got was a glance of
indifference—my friendship was not appreciated. I felt this very
keenly, and I no longer sought an affection which had proved so
inconstant. Nevertheless I still love my little school friend, and
continue to pray for her, for God has given me a faithful heart,
and when once I love, I love for ever.

Observing that some of the girls were very devoted to one or other
of the mistresses, I tried to imitate them, but I never succeeded
in winning special favour. O happy failure, from how many evils
have you saved me! I am most thankful to Our Lord that He let me
find only bitterness in earthly friendships. With a heart like
mine, I should have been taken captive and had my wings clipped,
and how then should I have been able to “fly away and be at

How can a heart given up to human affections be closely united to
God? It seems to me that it is impossible. I have seen so many
souls, allured by this false light, fly right into it like poor
moths, and burn their wings, and then return, wounded, to Our
Lord, the Divine fire which burns and does not consume. I know
well Our Lord saw that I was too weak to be exposed to temptation,
for, without doubt, had the deceitful light of created love
dazzled my eyes, I should have been entirely consumed. Where
strong souls find joy and practise detachment faithfully, I only
found bitterness. No merit, then, is due to me for not having
given up to these frail ties, since I was only preserved from them
by the Mercy of God. I fully realised that without Him I should
have fallen as low as St. Mary Magdalen, and the Divine Master’s
words re-echoed sweetly in my soul. Yes, I know that “To whom less
is forgiven he loveth less,”[9] but I know too that Our Lord has
forgiven me more than St. Mary Magdalen. Here is an example which
will, at any rate, show you some of my thoughts.

Let us suppose that the son of a very clever doctor, stumbling
over a stone on the road, falls and breaks his leg. His father
hastens to him, lifts him lovingly, and binds up the fractured
limb, putting forth all his skill. The son, when cured, displays
the utmost gratitude, and he has excellent reason for doing so.
But let us take another supposition.

The father, aware that a dangerous stone lies in his son’s path,
is beforehand with the danger and removes it, unseen by anyone.
The son, thus tenderly cared for, not knowing of the mishap from
which his father’s hand has saved him, naturally will not show him
any gratitude, and will love him less than if he had cured him of
a grievous wound. But suppose he heard the whole truth, would he
not in that case love him still more? Well now, I am this child,
the object of the foreseeing love of a Father “Who did not send
His son to call the just, but sinners.”[10] He wishes me to love
Him, because He has forgiven me, not much, but everything. Without
waiting for me to love Him much, as St. Mary Magdalen did, He has
made me understand how He has loved me with an ineffable love and
forethought, so that now my love may know no bounds.

I had often heard it said, both in retreats and elsewhere, that He
is more deeply loved by repentant souls than by those who have not
lost their baptismal innocence. Ah! If I could but give the lie to
those words. . . .

But I have wandered so far from my subject that I hardly know
where to begin again. It was during the retreat before my second
Communion that I was attacked by the terrible disease of scruples.
One must have passed through this martyrdom to understand it. It
would be quite impossible for me to tell you what I suffered for
nearly two years. All my thoughts and actions, even the simplest,
were a source of trouble and anguish to me; I had no peace till I
had told Marie everything, and this was most painful, since I
imagined I was obliged to tell absolutely all my thoughts, even
the most extravagant. As soon as I had unburdened myself I felt a
momentary peace, but it passed like a flash, and my martyrdom
began again. Many an occasion for patience did I provide for my
dear sister.

That year we spent a fortnight of our holidays at the sea-side. My
aunt, who always showed us such motherly care, treated us to all
possible pleasures—donkey rides, shrimping, and the rest. She
even spoiled us in the matter of clothes. I remember one day she
gave me some pale blue ribbon; although I was twelve and a half, I
was still such a child that I quite enjoyed tying it in my hair.
But this childish pleasure seemed sinful to me, and I had so many
scruples that I had to go to Confession, even at Trouville.

While I was there I had an experience which did me good. My cousin
Marie often suffered from sick headaches. On these occasions my
aunt used to fondle her and coax her with the most endearing
names, but the only response was continual tears and the unceasing
cry: “My head aches!” I had a headache nearly every day, though I
did not say so; but one evening I thought I would imitate Marie.
So I sat down in an armchair in a corner of the room, and set to
work to cry. My aunt, as well as my cousin Jeanne, to whom I was
very devoted, hastened to me to know what was the matter. I
answered like Marie: “My head aches.” It would seem that
complaining was not in my line; no one would believe that a
headache was the reason of my tears. Instead of petting me as
usual, my aunt spoke to me seriously. Even Jeanne reproached me,
very kindly it is true, and was grieved at my want of simplicity
and trust in my aunt. She thought I had a big scruple, and was not
giving the real reason of my tears. At last, getting nothing for
my pains, I made up my mind not to imitate other people any more.
I thought of the fable of the ass and the little dog; I was the
ass, who, seeing that the little dog got all the petting, put his
clumsy hoof on the table to try and secure his share. If I did not
have a beating like the poor beast, at any rate I got what I
deserved—a severe lesson, which cured me once for all of the
desire to attract attention.

I must go back now to the subject of my scruples. They made me so
ill that I was obliged to leave school when I was thirteen. In
order to continue my education, Papa took me several times a week
to a lady who was an excellent teacher. Her lessons served the
double purpose of instructing me and making me associate with
other people.

Visitors were often shown into the old-fashioned room where I sat
with my books and exercises. As far as possible my teacher’s
mother carried on the conversation, but still I did not learn much
while it lasted. Seemingly absorbed in my book, I could hear many
things it would have been better for me not to hear. One lady said
I had beautiful hair; another asked, as she left, who was that
pretty little girl. Such remarks, the more flattering because I
was not meant to hear them, gave me a feeling of pleasure which
showed plainly that I was full of self-love.

I am very sorry for souls who lose themselves in this way. It is
so easy to go astray in the seductive paths of the world. Without
doubt, for a soul somewhat advanced in virtue, the sweetness
offered by the world is mingled with bitterness, and the immense
void of its desires cannot be filled by the flattery of a moment;
but I repeat, if my heart had not been lifted up towards God from
the first moment of consciousness, if the world had smiled on me
from the beginning of my life, what should I have become? Dearest
Mother, with what a grateful heart do I sing “the Mercies of the
Lord!” Has He not, according to the words of Holy Wisdom, “taken
me away from the world lest wickedness should alter my
understanding, or deceit beguile my soul?”[11]

Meanwhile I resolved to consecrate myself in a special way to Our
Blessed Lady, and I begged to be enrolled among the Children of
Mary.[12] To gain this favour I had to go twice a week to the
Convent, and I must confess this cost me something, I was so shy.
There was no question of the affection I felt towards my
mistresses, but, as I said before, I had no special friend among
them, with whom I could have spent many hours like other old
pupils. So I worked in silence till the end of the lesson, and
then, as no one took any notice of me, I went to the tribune in
the Chapel till Papa came to fetch me home. Here, during this
silent visit, I found my one consolation—for was not Jesus my
only Friend? To Him alone could I open my heart; all conversation
with creatures, even on holy subjects, wearied me. It is true that
in these periods of loneliness I sometimes felt sad, and I used
often to console myself by repeating this line of a beautiful poem
Papa had taught me: “Time is thy barque, and not thy

Young as I was, these words restored my courage, and even now, in
spite of having outgrown many pious impressions of childhood, the
symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile
of this life. Does not the Wise Man tell us—”Life is like a ship
that passeth through the waves: when it is gone by, the trace
thereof cannot be found”?[13]

When my thoughts run on in this way, my soul loses itself as it
were in the infinite; I seem already to touch the Heavenly Shore
and to receive Our Lord’s embrace. I fancy I can see Our Blessed
Lady coming to meet me, with my Father and Mother, my little
brothers and sisters; and I picture myself enjoying true family
joys for all eternity.

But before reaching Our Father’s Home in Heaven, I had to go
through many partings on this earth. The year in which I was made
a Child of Mary, Our Lady took from me my sister Marie, the only
support of my soul,[14] my oracle and inseparable companion since
the departure of Pauline. As soon as I knew of her decision, I
made up my mind to take no further pleasure in anything here
below. I could not tell you how many tears I shed. But at this
time I was much given to crying, not only over big things, but
over trifling ones too. For instance: I was very anxious to
advance in virtue, but I went about it in a strange way. I was not
accustomed to wait on myself; Céline always arranged our room, and
I never did any household work. Sometimes, in order to please Our
Lord, I used to make my bed, or, if she were out in the evening,
to bring in her plants and seedlings. As I said before, it was
simply to please Our Lord that I did these things, and so I ought
not to have expected any thanks from creatures. But, alas! I did
expect them, and, if unfortunately Céline did not seem surprised
and grateful for my little services, I was not pleased, and tears
rose to my eyes.

Again, if by accident I offended anyone, instead of taking it in
the right way, I fretted till I made myself ill, thus making my
fault worse, instead of mending it; and when I began to realise my
foolishness, I would cry for having cried.

In fact, I made troubles out of everything. Now, things are quite
different. God in His goodness has given me grace not to be cast
down by any passing difficulty. When I think of what I used to be,
my heart overflows with gratitude. The graces I have received have
changed me so completely, that I am scarcely the same person.

After Marie entered the Carmel, and I no longer had her to listen
to my scruples, I turned towards Heaven and confided them to the
four little angels who had already gone before me, for I thought
that these innocent souls, who had never known sorrow or fear,
ought to have pity on their poor little suffering sister. I talked
to them with childish simplicity, telling them that, as I was the
youngest of the family, I had always been the most petted and
loved by my parents and sisters; that if they had remained on
earth they would no doubt have given me the same proofs of their
affection. The fact that they had gone to Heaven seemed no reason
why they should forget me—on the contrary, as they were able to
draw form the treasury of Heaven, they ought to obtain for me the
grace of peace, and prove that they still knew how to love me.

The answer was not long in coming; soon my soul was flooded with
the sweetest peace. I knew that I was loved, not only on earth but
also in Heaven. From that time my devotion for these little
brothers and sisters increased; I loved to talk to them and tell
them of all the sorrows of this exile, and of my wish to join them
soon in our Eternal Home.

[1] Cf. Matt. 6:3.

[2] Wisdom 4:12.

[3] Imit., I, ch. i. 3.

[4] Cant. 2:1.

[5] Gal. 2:20.

[6] Imit., III, ch. xxvi. 3.

[7] St. Teresa, who reformed the Carmelite Order, and died in
1582, is sometimes called the Doctor of Mystical Theology, because
of her luminous writings on the relations of the soul with God in
prayer. [Ed.]

[8] Ps. 54[55]:7.

[9] Luke 7:47.

[10] Luke 5:32.

[11] Cf. Wisdom 4:11.

[12] It was on May 31, 1886, that she became a Sodalist of Our
Lady. [Ed.]

[13] Wisdom 5:10.

[14] Marie entered the Carmel of Lisieux on October 15, 1886,
taking the name of Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart.



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