I was eight and a half when Léonie left school, and I took her
place at the Benedictine Abbey in Lisieux. The girls of my class
were all older than myself; one of them was fourteen, and, though
not clever, she knew how to impose on the little ones. Seeing me
so young, nearly always first in class, and a favourite with all
the nuns, she was jealous, and used to pay me out in a thousand
ways. Naturally timid and sensitive, I did not know how to defend
myself, and could only cry in silence. Céline and my elder sisters
did not know of my grief, and, not being advanced enough in virtue
to rise above these troubles, I suffered considerably.

Every evening I went home, and then my spirits rose. I would climb
on to Papa’s knee, telling him what marks I had, and his caresses
made me forget all my troubles. With what delight I announced the
result of my first essay, for I won the maximum number of marks.
In reward I received a silver coin which I put in my money box for
the poor, and nearly every Thursday I was able to increase the

Indeed, to be spoilt was a real necessity for me. The Little
Flower had need to strike its tender roots deeper and deeper into
the dearly loved garden of home, for nowhere else could it find
the nourishment it required. Thursday was a holiday, but it was
not like the holidays I had under Pauline, which I generally spent
upstairs with Papa. Not knowing how to play like other children, I
felt myself a dull companion. I tried my best to do as the others
did, but without success.

After Céline, who was, so to say, indispensable to me, I sought
the company of my little cousin Marie, because she left me free to
choose the games I liked best. We were already closely united in
heart and will, as if God were showing us in advance how one day
in the Carmel we should embrace the same religious life.[1]

Very often, at my uncle’s house, we used to play at being two
austere hermits, with only a poor hut, a little patch of corn, and
a garden in which to grow a few vegetables. Our life was to be
spent in continual contemplation, one praying while the other
engaged in active duties. All was done with religious gravity and
decorum. If we went out, the make-believe continued even in the
street; the two hermits would say the Rosary, using their fingers
to count on, so as not to display their devotion before those who
might scoff. One day, however, the hermit Thérèse forgot
herself—before eating a cake, given her for lunch, she made a
large Sign of the Cross, and some worldly folk did not repress a

We were so bent on always doing the same thing that sometimes we
carried it too far. Endeavouring one evening, on our way home from
school, to imitate the modest demeanour of the hermits, I said to
Marie: “Lead me, I am going to shut my eyes.” “So am I,” she
answered. Being on the pavement we were in no fear of vehicles,
and for a short while all went well, and we enjoyed walking with
our eyes shut; but presently we both fell over some boxes standing
at a shop door and knocked them down. The shopkeeper came out in a
rage to replace them, but the would-be blind pair picked
themselves up and ran off as fast as they could, with eyes wide
open. Then the hermits had to listen to a well-deserved scolding
from Jeanne, the maid, who seemed as vexed as the shopkeeper.

I have not yet told you how Céline and I altered when we came to
Lisieux. She had now become the little romp, full of mischief,
while Thérèse had turned into a very quiet little girl, far too
much inclined to tears. I needed a champion, and who can say how
courageously my dear little sister played that part. We used to
enjoy making each other little presents, for, at that age, the
simplicity of our hearts was unspoiled. Like the spring flowers
they unfolded, glad to receive the morning dew, while the same
soft breezes swayed their petals. Yes, our joys were mutual. I
felt this especially on the happy day of Céline’s First Communion;
I was only seven years old, and had not yet begun school at the
Abbey. How sweet is the remembrance of her preparation! Every
evening during its last weeks my sisters talked to her of the
great event. I listened, eager to prepare myself too, and my heart
swelled with grief when I was told to go away because I was still
too young. I thought that four years was not too long to spend in
making ready to receive Our dear Lord. One evening I heard someone
say to my happy little sister: “From the time of your First
Communion you must begin an entirely new life.” At once I made a
resolution not to wait till the time of my First Communion, but to
begin with Céline. During her retreat she remained as a boarder at
the Abbey, and it seemed to me she was away a long time; but at
last the happy day came. What a delightful impression it has left
on my mind—it was like a foretaste of my own First Communion! How
many graces I received that day! I look on it as one of the most
beautiful of my life.

I have gone back a little in order to recall these happy memories;
but now I must tell you of the mournful parting which crushed my
heart when Our Lord took from me my little Mother whom I loved so
dearly. I told her once that I would like to go away with her to a
far-off desert; she replied that it was her wish too, but that she
was waiting till I was big enough to set out. This impossible
promise I took in earnest, and what was my grief when I heard
Pauline talking to Marie about soon entering the Carmel! I did not
know the Carmel; but I knew that she was leaving me to enter a
convent, and that she would not wait for me.

How can I describe the anguish I suffered! In a flash I saw life
spread out before me as it really is, full of sufferings and
frequent partings, and I shed bitter tears. At that time I did not
know the joy of sacrifice; I was weak—so weak that I look on it
as a great grace that I was able to bear such a trial, one
seemingly so much beyond my strength—and yet live. I shall never
forget how tenderly my little Mother consoled me, while explaining
the religious life. Then one evening, when I was thinking over the
picture she had drawn, I felt that the Carmel was the desert where
God wished me also to hide. I felt this so strongly that I had not
the least doubt about it; nor was it a childish dream, but the
certainty of a Divine Call. This impression, which I cannot
properly describe, left me with a feeling of great inward peace.

Next day I confided my desires to Pauline. They seemed to her as a
proof of God’s Will, and she promised to take me soon to the
Carmel, to see the Mother Prioress and to tell her my secret. This
solemn visit was fixed for a certain Sunday, and great was my
embarrassment on hearing that my cousin Marie—who was still young
enough to be allowed to see the Carmelites—was to come with us.[2]

I had to contrive a means of being alone with the Reverend Mother,
and this is what I planned. I told Marie, that, as we were to have
the great privilege of seeing her, we must be very good and
polite, and tell her our little secrets, and in order to do that,
we must go out of the room in turns. Though she did not quite like
it, because she had no secrets to confide, Marie took me at my
word, and so I was able to be alone with you, dear Mother. You
listened to my great disclosure, and believed in my vocation, but
you told me that postulants were not received at the age of nine,
and that I must wait till I was sixteen. In spite of my ardent
desire to enter with Pauline and make my First Communion on her
clothing day, I had to be resigned.

At last the 2nd of October came—a day of tears, but also of
blessings, when Our Lord gathered the first of His flowers, the
chosen flower who, later on, was to become the Mother of her
sisters.[3] Whilst Papa, with my uncle and Marie, climbed the
mountain of Carmel to offer his first sacrifice, my aunt took me
to Mass, with my sisters and cousins. We were bathed in tears, and
people gazed at us in astonishment when we entered the church, but
that did not stop our crying. I even wondered how the sun could go
on shining. Perhaps, dear Mother, you think I exaggerate my grief
a little. I confess that this parting ought not to have upset me
so much, but my soul was yet far from mature, and I had to pass
through many trials before reaching the haven of peace, before
tasting the delicious fruits of perfect love and of complete
abandonment to God’s Will.

In the afternoon of that October day, 1882, behind the grating of
the Carmel, I saw my beloved Pauline, now become Sister Agnes of
Jesus. Oh, how much I suffered in that parlour! As I am writing
the story of my soul, it seems to me that I ought to tell you
everything. Well, I acknowledge that I hardly counted the first
pains of this parting, in comparison with those which followed. I,
who had been accustomed to talk with my little Mother of all that
was in my heart, could now scarcely snatch two or three minutes
with her at the end of the family visits; even these short minutes
were passed in tears, and I went away with my heart torn with

I did not realise that it was impossible to give us each half an
hour, and that of course Papa and Marie must have the largest
share. I could not understand all this, and I said from the depths
of my heart: “Pauline is lost to me.”

This suffering so affected me that I soon became seriously ill.
The illness was undoubtedly the work of the devil, who, in his
fury at this first entry into the Carmel, tried to avenge himself
on me for the great harm my family was to do him in the future.
However, he little knew that the Queen of Heaven was watching
faithfully over her Little Flower, that she was smiling upon it
from on high, ready to still the tempest just when the delicate
and fragile stalk was in danger of being broken once and for all.
At the close of the year 1882 I began to suffer from constant
headaches; they were bearable, however, and did not prevent me
from continuing my studies. This lasted till the Easter of 1883.
Just then Papa went to Paris with my elder sisters, and confided
Céline and me to the care of our uncle and aunt. One evening I was
alone with my uncle, and he talked so tenderly of my Mother and of
bygone days that I was deeply moved and began to cry. My
sensitiveness touched him too; he was surprised that one of my age
should feel as I did. So he determined to do all he could to
divert my mind during the holidays.

But God had decided otherwise. That very evening my headache
became acute, and I was seized with a strange shivering which
lasted all night. My aunt, like a real mother, never left me for a
moment; all through my illness she lavished on me the most tender
and devoted care. You may imagine my poor Father’s grief when he
returned from Paris to find me in this hopeless state; he thought
I was going to die, but Our Lord might have said to him: “This
sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.”[4]

Yes, God was glorified by means of this trial, by the wonderful
resignation of my Father and sisters. And to Marie especially what
suffering it brought, and how grateful I am to this dear sister!
She seemed to divine my wants by instinct, for a mother’s heart is
more knowing than the science of the most skilful doctors.

And now Pauline’s clothing day was drawing near; but, fearing to
distress me, no one dared mention it in my presence, since it was
taken for granted that I should not be well enough to be there.
Deep down in my heart, however, I firmly believed that God would
give me the consolation of seeing dear Pauline on that day. I was
quite sure that this feast would be unclouded; I knew that Our
Lord would not try His Spouse by depriving her of my presence, she
had already suffered so much on account of my illness. And so it
turned out. I was there, able to embrace my dear little Mother, to
sit on her knee, and, hiding myself under her veil, to receive her
loving caresses. I was able to feast my eyes upon her—she looked
so lovely in her veil and mantle of white. Truly it was a day of
happiness in the midst of heavy trials; but this day, or rather
this hour, passed only too quickly, and soon we were in the
carriage which was to take us away from the Carmel. On reaching
home I was made to lie down, though I did not feel at all tired;
but next day I had a serious relapse, and became so ill that,
humanly speaking, there was no hope of any recovery.

I do not know how to describe this extraordinary illness. I said
things which I had never thought of; I acted as though I were
forced to act in spite of myself; I seemed nearly always to be
delirious; and yet I feel certain that I was never, for a minute,
deprived of my reason. Sometimes I remained in a state of extreme
exhaustion for hours together, unable to make the least movement,
and yet, in spite of this extraordinary torpor, hearing the least
whisper. I remember it still. And what fears the devil inspired! I
was afraid of everything; my bed seemed to be surrounded by
frightful precipices; nails in the wall took the terrifying
appearance of long fingers, shrivelled and blackened with fire,
making me cry out in terror. One day, while Papa stood looking at
me in silence, the hat in his hand was suddenly transformed into
some horrible shape, and I was so frightened that he went away

But if God allowed the devil to approach me in this open way,
Angels too were sent to console and strengthen me. Marie never
left me, and never showed the least trace of weariness in spite of
all the trouble I gave her—for I could not rest when she was
away. During meals, when Victoire took care of me, I never ceased
calling tearfully “Marie! Marie!” When she wanted to go out, it
was only if she were going to Mass or to see Pauline that I kept
quiet. As for Léonie and my little Céline, they could not do
enough for me. On Sundays they shut themselves up for hours with a
poor child who seemed almost to have lost her reason. My own dear
sisters, how much I made you suffer! My uncle and aunt were also
devoted to me. My aunt came to see me every day, and brought me
many little gifts. I could never tell you how my love for these
dear ones increased during this illness. I understood better than
ever what Papa had so often told us: “Always remember, children,
that your uncle and aunt have devoted themselves to you in a way
that is quite exceptional.” In his old age he experienced this
himself, and now he must bless and protect those who lavished upon
him such affectionate care.[5]

When my sufferings grew less, my great delight was to weave
garlands of daisies and forget-me-nots for Our Lady’s statue. We
were in the beautiful month of May, when all nature is clothed
with the flowers of spring; the Little Flower alone drooped, and
seemed as though it had withered for ever. Yet she too had a
shining sun, the miraculous statue of the Queen of Heaven. How
often did not the Little Flower turn towards this glorious Sun!

One day Papa came into my room in the deepest distress, and I
watched him go up to Marie and give her some money, bidding her
write to Paris, and have a novena of Masses said at the shrine of
Our Lady of Victories,[6] to obtain the cure of his poor little
Queen. How touching were his faith and love! How much I longed to
get up and tell him I was cured! Alas! my wishes could not work a
miracle, and it needed one to restore me to health. Yes, it needed
a great miracle, and this was wrought by Our Lady of Victories

One Sunday, during the novena, Marie went into the garden, leaving
me with Léonie, who was reading by the window. After a short time
I began to call: “Marie! Marie!” very softly. Léonie, accustomed
to hear me fret like this, took no notice, so I called louder,
until Marie came back to me. I saw her come into the room quite
well, but, for the first time, I failed to recognise her. I looked
all round and glanced anxiously into the garden, still calling:
“Marie! Marie!” Her anguish was perhaps greater than mine, and
that was unutterable. At last, after many fruitless efforts to
make me recognise her, she whispered a few words to Léonie, and
went away pale and trembling. Léonie presently carried me to the
window. There I saw the garden, and Marie walking up and down, but
still I did not recognise her; she came forward, smiling, and held
out her arms to me calling tenderly: “Thérèse, dear little
Thérèse!” This last effort failing, she came in again and knelt in
tears at the foot of my bed; turning towards the statue of Our
Lady, she entreated her with the fervour of a mother who begs the
life of her child and will not be refused. Léonie and Céline
joined her, and that cry of faith forced the gates of Heaven. I
too, finding no help on earth and nearly dead with pain, turned to
my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to
have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and
grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words
to describe. The expression of Our Lady’s face was ineffably
sweet, tender, and compassionate; but what touched me to the very
depths of my soul was her gracious smile. Then, all my pain
vanished, two big tears started to my eyes and fell silently. . . .

They were indeed tears of unmixed heavenly joy. “Our Blessed Lady
has come to me, she has smiled at me. How happy I am, but I shall
tell no one, or my happiness will leave me!” Such were my
thoughts. Looking around, I recognised Marie; she seemed very much
overcome, and looked lovingly at me, as though she guessed that I
had just received a great grace.

Indeed her prayers had gained me this unspeakable favour—a smile
from the Blessed Virgin! When she saw me with my eyes fixed on the
statue, she said to herself: “Thérèse is cured!” And it was true.
The Little Flower had come to life again—a bright ray from its
glorious Sun had warmed and set it free for ever from its cruel
enemy. “The dark winter is past, the rain is over and gone,”[7]
and Our Lady’s Little Flower gathered such strength that five
years later it opened wide its petals on the fertile mountain of

As I said before, Marie was convinced that Our Blessed Lady, while
restoring my bodily health, had granted me some hidden grace. So,
when I was alone with her, I could not resist her tender and
pressing inquiries. I was so astonished to find my secret already
known, without my having said a word, that I told her everything.
Alas! as I had foreseen, my joy was turned into bitterness. For
four years the remembrance of this grace was a cause of real pain
to me, and it was only in the blessed sanctuary of Our Lady of
Victories, at my Mother’s feet, that I once again found peace.
There it was restored to me in all its fulness, as I will tell you

This is how my joy was changed into sadness. When Marie had heard
the childish, but perfectly sincere, account of the grace I had
received, she begged my leave to tell them at the Carmel, and I
did not like to refuse her. My first visit there after my illness
was full of joy at seeing Pauline clothed in the habit of Our Lady
of Carmel. It was a happy time for us both, we had so much to say,
we had both suffered so much. My heart was so full that I could
hardly speak.

You were there, dear Mother, and plainly showed your affection for
me; I saw several other Sisters too, and you must remember how
they questioned me about my cure. Some asked if Our Lady was
holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, others if the Angels were
with her, and so on. All these questions distressed and grieved
me, and I could only make one answer: “Our Lady looked very
beautiful; I saw her come towards me and smile.” But noticing that
the nuns thought something quite different had happened from what
I had told them, I began to persuade myself that I had been guilty
of an untruth.

If only I had kept my secret I should have kept my happiness also.
But Our Lady allowed this trouble to befall me for the good of my
soul; perhaps without it vanity would have crept into my heart,
whereas now I was humbled, and I looked on myself with feelings of
contempt. My God, Thou alone knowest all that I suffered!

[1] Marie Guérin entered the Carmel at Lisieux on August 15, 1895,
and took the name of Sister Mary of the Eucharist. She died on
April 14, 1905, aged thirty-four.

[2] With the Carmelites the grating is only opened for near
relatives and very young children. [Ed.]

[3] “Pauline” has several times been Prioress of the Carmel of
Lisieux, and in 1909 again succeeded to that office on the death
of the young and saintly Mother Mary of St. Angelus of the Child
Jesus. [Ed.]

[4] John 11:4.

[5] Mme. Guérin died holily on February 13, 1900, aged fifty-two.
During her illness Thérèse assisted her in an extraordinary way,
several times making her presence felt. Monsieur Guérin, having
for many years used his pen in defence of the Church, and his
fortune in the support of good works, died a beautiful death on
September 28, 1909, in his sixty-ninth year. [Ed.]

[6] It was in this small church—once deserted and to-day perhaps
the most frequented in Paris—that the saintly Abbé Desgenettes
was inspired by Our Lady, in 1836, to establish the Confraternity
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners.

[7] Cant. 2:11.


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