IMPRIMATUR EDMUNDUS Canonicus SURMONT Vicarius Generalis

WESTMONASTERII, die nonâ Decembris, 1912.



I. Earliest Memories
II. A Catholic Household
III. Pauline Enters the Carmel
IV. First Communion and Confirmation
V. Vocation of Thérèse
VI. A Pilgrimage to Rome
VII. The Little Flower Enters the Carmel
VIII. Profession of Soeur Thérèse
IX. The Night of the Soul
X. The New Commandment
XI. A Canticle of Love





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

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

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

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

“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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