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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Virtual Choir of Discalced Carmelite Nuns Singing for the 500th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Teresa of Avila


This "virtual choir" of Discalced Carmelite nuns from around the world singing in honor of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila evokes most beautifully the desire of St. Therese "to preach the gospel on all five continents simultaneously."  They are chanting a poem often called "St. Teresa's bookmark," also known as "The Efficacy of Patience."  The text in Spanish:

"Eficacia de la Paciencia"

Nada te turbe, 
nada te espante, 
todo se pasa, 
Dios no se muda;
la paciencia 
todo lo alcanza; 
quien a Dios tiene 
nada le falta:
Sólo Dios basta.

English translation:

"Efficacy of Patience."

Let nothing trouble you,
Let nothing scare you,
All is fleeting,
God alone is unchanging.
Everything obtains.
Who possesses God
Nothing wants.
God alone suffices.

[from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume Three: translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otiliio Rodriguez, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1985]. 

Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10:01PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"St. Therese of Lisieux at School, Part 2" - the second of four articles written in 1934 by a Benedictine nun who taught Therese

The Little Flower at School
By One of her teachers
Further Memories of St. Thérèse as a Pupil of the Benedictine Nuns in Lisieux . . .
Written for The Far East by a Member of the Community
Second of a series of four articles.  Transcribed from The Far East, April, 1934, pp. 7-9.

With thanks to the Missionary Society of St. Columban, I present this second of a series of four articles about the school life and First Communion of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, written by one of the Benedictine nuns who taught Thérèse. These articles were commmissioned by "The Fast East" in 1934 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Thérèse's First Communion (May 8, 1884).  We present them in honor of the 130th anniversary of Thérèse's First Communion; the anniversary fell on May 8, 2014.

 This second article discusses Therese's academic strengths and weaknesses; the older student who resented her; the morning schedule of the Abbey school; recreation; the daily visit to the Eucharist; Therese's catechism class; and  the anticipation of her First Communion.  This article leaves Therese in the autumn of 1883, when she was ten years old.


We are now going to let little Thérèse herself speak.  Here is what she tells us in the Story of a Soul, chapter III.
"I was eight and a half when Léonie left school and I took her place at the Abbey.”  Then she adds:  “I was put in a class of pupils who were all bigger than I.”
This was the classe verte, the “Green Class.”  I should explain that there were five classes, each having two or three divisions according to the number of pupils, who usually remained for two years in a class.  Belts of different colors, worn with the uniforms, distinguished the various classes;  red for lowest class, the fifth;  green for the fourth (preparatory), violet for the third (elementary), orange for the second, (intermediate), blue for the first (higher), and white for the students who had won their first diploma and were continuing their studies.
Her Classwork

Thérèse never wore the red belt and had the green for only one year.  Thanks to the attentive care of her “Little Mother” [her sister, Pauline], our new pupil was in no way backward.  Does she not also say in her autobiography that from the beginning success fell to her, bringing encouragement and rejoicing?  Our industrious pupil held this gain of a year until she left the school.  She was intelligent and fond of study, but her spirit of faith was too strong to let her take things easily just because the Lord had endowed her with natural gifts.  Thérèse brought a serious and sustained application to her work.  The high marks and first places she won in the weekly tests were the reward of her diligence.  Undoubtedly she had to strive hard to withstand the competition of classmates who were older than she and not less gifted nor less studious.
It has seemed surprising to us that Thérèse has written:  “I had very great difficulty in learning anything by heart.”  Quite the contrary the Mistresses are agreed in testifying that she showed excellent powers of memory, doing well in the subjects that demanded these more particularly, such as history and geography.  She could recite by heart stories and long passages of poetry with delightful grace and naturalness.  At one of the little literary and musical entertainments with which each term ended, she put so much spirit and feeling into her recitation of the poem entitled “Le Pain de Chez Nous” – a touching story of a little Breton boy, sick in Paris, who in order to get well asked his father for “a piece of bread from home” – that the whole audience was moved by it.  And when she said:
In Heaven, our home and our fair fatherland, 
There is life-giving Bread, bestowed by God’s hand, 
‘Tis the wheat of the elect that is ground for our need, 
‘Tis the remedy divine, it is Jesus indeed!
all her own ardent love for the Blessed Eucharist came out in her gestures and in the accent of her young voice.
It would not be correct, however, to think that Thérèse had no difficulty with her studies.  No, for despite her good will she met with a lack of success in French and in arithmetic that she felt keenly.  The dear child did not become angry, and she did not lose courage, but she shed an abundance of tears which showed an excessive sensitiveness.  She blamed herself greatly for this and later she was to master it.  It is the only fault – and a very light one – that we observed in our lovable pupil.  We were upset on seeing her give herself up to such grief.  We could not console her when her marks or her place in the tests did not come up to her desires.  

It would be a great mistake to think that these tears of Thérèse came from self-love or ambition.  She fancied that God would be less pleased with her and that she would grieve her good father, who manifested a certain disappointment when her marks went as low as 3 (out of 6) and, on the other hand, seemed so happy when his daughters brought him reports showing high marks and first places.  The day-boarders could bring work with them to do at home in the evenings.  M. Martin and the older girls took the greatest interest in the studies and progress of the children.  The truth is, the, that the tears shed by Thérèse came from her delicacy of conscience and her extreme goodness of heart.
Petty Persecution

In the class there was one pupil of limited intelligence, very backward and mortified at finding herself with little girls much younger than she.  It is not surprising that she became jealous of the successes of her youngest companion and of the affectionate regard in which this companion was held among the nuns.  Thérèse, laden as she was with every gift of nature and of grace, immediately aroused hostility in this girl.  These are some of the difficulties that occur in every educational institution.  This gave rise to various forms of teasing, not at all serious in themselves but very hard on a child who had been treated so affectionately at home and who, because of her natural timidity, could not rise sufficiently above the unpleasant situation.  It must also be said that because of her very active imagination this hardship, real as it was, was magnified for her.  Thus Providence was preparing the young schoolgirl for the truly great and painful trials that she was to meet later on.  

In outlining briefly the day of a pupil at the Abbey of Notre Dame du Pré, we shall follow little Thérèse step by step.  
A little handbell announces all the exercises by loud ringing or by a slight tinkle as the case might be. Every week a “réglementaire” or time-keeper took up duty.  This was not regarded by any means as an arduous task but rather as a mark of trust, merited by good conduct.  Accordingly, Thérèse had the honor pretty often of ringing the bell. 
For the older boarders rising was at 5:55 a. m.  The mistress gave the signal by reciting the words of the sign of the cross quite loudly followed by the short, customary offering:  “My God, I give You my heart. . .”  At 6:40 morning prayer was said – a pupil saying it aloud.  Then came le petit déjeuner [the light French breakfast].  Pupils who intended to receive Holy Communion went directly to the chapel to have a quarter-hour’s preparation before Mass, at which all assisted.
At 8 a. m. the pupils go into study, which opens with the “Veni, Sancte Spiritus.”  As we have said [see The Far East for March 1934], the day-boarders must be here between 8 and 8:30.  From 9 to noon there are various classes.  At 10 there is a recess – a short recreation – of ten minutes.  This recreation is taken in the playground when weather permits.  
During dinner, when everyone has been served, a pupil reads for a few minutes from the lives of the saints.  The recreation which follows ends at 1:15 p. m. 
Eucharistic Visit
Ten minutes before the signal for going in, the girls who wished were permitted to go to the chapel for a little visit to the Blessed Sacrament.  At the age of nine to twelve years, one requires a certain amount of courage and real piety to stop playing immediately, in the middle of a game of croquet or the like.

Little Thérèse never failed to throw down whatever she held in her hand as soon as the mistress would approach the different groups and say:  “It is time to go to chapel.”  And her example would bring along others who were dallying hesitantly.  
At Recreation 

Pupils at the Abbey at outdoor recreation in 1885, when Therese studied there

In connection with recreation, we read in the autobiography:  “I was no good at games… I did not care for games, especially noisy ones.”  That is true, but as Thérèse was above all faithful to duty, she took part in the general games:  pupils were not permitted to go off on their own.  Let us hear some of her companions:  
“Thérèse loved to gather some of the smallest pupils around her and to tell them children’s stories, and her young audience, enthralled by her words, forgot about playing.  So the mistress one day made this remark to us:  ‘Children, I prefer to see you running around than talking.’
“Sometimes Thérèse would leave the games of the bigger girls and would turn to see the fun of the little ones.  When she spied someone up to mischief, she would come, all smiles, in the middle of the happy flock and would take the little rogue gently by the hands to make her confess her tricks.  With her deep, penetrating gaze she seemed to plumb the depth of these little souls.”  
Thérèse, we see, had already a liking for the apostolate.  
“I take pride, in a supernatural sense, in having been the little companion of Thérèse and in having shared her games.  With her I buried little birds under the lime-trees or at the foot of the pear-tree that was growing along the trellis.  Our cemetery was there in the corner formed by the chapel, close to the entrance to the cellar.  We were very much afraid when passing that dark opening… But one day it was forbidden to go beyond certain bounds, on account of the difficulties of supervision.  Hence, in order not to disobey, we had no more funerals of birds in that spot.”  
One concluding point will show how, even amid games, the little one’s mind was directed towards the supernatural.  
“Thérèse was, I think, nine years old.  She was a member of the Sodality of the Holy Angels.  According to the custom of the school, the young children who had some little troubles could go and confide them to the girl who filled the office of President in one of the sodalities (of the Holy Angels or the Children of Mary).  One day Thérèse said to me:  ‘Marguerite, I would like to ask you something.’  ‘Yes, Thérèse, I will talk to you at recreation.’
“When the time came, I drew the child aside and as we walked along together, I said, ‘Well Thérèse, what’s the matter?’ 
“‘I wish you would teach me how to make a meditation.’
“Quite surprised, I told her to go and find the catechism teacher who could advise her much better than I.  Thérèse then confided to me how she practised recollection beside her cot, and said to me ‘I think.’
“Without knowing, the little girl was already very expert in the science of prayer.”

Recreation, in bad weather, was spent on the terrace, which was spacious and had a southern exposure.  
There the children could have their fun and enjoy the fresh air in shelter.  But to get there, one had to go through part of the monastery and therefore observe the silence of the cloister.  The mistresses obtained this easily, as it was not without awe that the light-hearted throng passed beneath the bare vaulted roof of the old cloister with its outlined arches, ancient and still imposing.  There, at the end, stands a fine crucifix.  The devout child, slipping out of the ranks, would climb the three steps of Calvary and standing on tiptoe would lovingly kiss the bleeding wounds of the Saviour
On the reopening of the school, in October, 1882, Thérèse entered the “Violet Class.”  Although there again she found pupils older than herself, it was without difficulty that the newcomer followed the course.  She competed successfully with her companions.  One of these – now a grandmother – likes to recall these youthful but highly spirited contests in which, beaten by a single mark, she found it hard to forgive the victory of her young rival.  
In Religion Class
The time for First Communion always came when the pupil was in this class and the program of studies was arranged so as to give a preponderating place to religious instruction.  
The zeal of little Thérèse for religious instruction was wonderful.  We shall have occasion to enlarge on this subject and on the extremely edifying way in which she prepared for her First Communion.  

The chaplain bore witness, not without pride, that at the customary examination he had deliberately tried to puzzle Thérèse but that he had not succeeded.  So he called her his “little Doctor of Theology” and one can foresee perhaps that these words may soon be shown to have been prophetic.  [Note of 2014: This sentence reflects that in the 1930s talk of Therese as a Doctor of the Church had begun].
The mistress of catechism at that time, Mother St.  Francis de Sales, who died a very saintly death, at the venerable age of eighty, on February 25, 1933, wrote:  “Thérèse in catechism class listened to the explanations with close and unfailing attention.  Her clear eyes became animated and shone with interest.  She seemed to drink in the words of the priest with a devout avidity.  She always had the required lesson off by heart.”  At this age her zeal for souls was already showing itself by some rather complex and deep questions about the destiny of the unbaptized and the infidels.
 An old pupil, today a nursing Sister, wrote to us recently:  “Have you still got the crucifix before which Thérèse shed tears of grief while the mistress was speaking about venial sin?  Her little face revealed profound sorrow at the thought of the offense and injury offered to God.”  This precious crucifix is to be seen in the Oratory of the Souvenirs.
Trials and a Great Favor
At this period our little Thérèse had to undergo two great trials, but she also received an extraordinary grace.  On January 2, 1883, she reached the age of ten when children were then admitted to the Holy Table.  Alas, a diocesan synod had just been held and had decreed that henceforth children should have completed their tenth year before the first of January!  So Thérèse was two days short.  What a sacrifice for this little soul that wished so ardently to be united to Our Lord!
In spite of her resignation, she retained a sense of keen sorrow in the depths of her heart.  One may ask if this had not something to do with the continual headaches that afflicted her at the end of 1882.
At Easter these became extremely severe, and then began that strange and mysterious illness that she describes in detail in her autobiography.  The bitter trial was ended, as we know, on May 13, 1883 by that indescribable grace of the “Smile of the Blessed Virgin” – the fiftieth anniversary of which has just [1933] been celebrated at the Carmel.
Her cure was complete.  Two months remained before the school year would be finished.  Thérèse did not resume her studies but came occasionally to let us see that her health was restored.  It was admirable how this privileged child of Mary never said a word to anyone about the great favor that she had received; and the same silence was observed by all the members of her family.

 When the school reopened in October, Thérèse continued to be the simple, frank schoolgirl of old, but she was more and more edifying.  For was not this to be for her the great year.  A few months more and the longed-for day would dawn!
Her state of health now allowed her to follow the regular course of studies.  She resumed her work with enthusiasm, while giving pride of place to religious instruction, even more markedly than before.
(To be continued)
(Editor’s Note of 1934:  The longed-for day was that of the Little Flower’s First Communion, May 8, 1884.  Next month the Golden Jubilee of this event will be celebrated solemnly in the Benedictine Sisters’ Abbey where St. Thérèse first received the Blessed Eucharist, and also in the Carmelite monastery where her life as a religious was lived.  Our May issue will give the Benedictine Sisters’ recollections of this notable event in the life of the patroness of foreign missions and the greatest of modern saints).
Notes in 2014:

This article originally appeared in the April 1934 issue of The Far East (U.S.A. edition).  

Special thanks to Linda Smith, who typed this article for publication; to her husband, Scott Smith, who formatted the print-friendly version you may download; and to Patricia Taussig, who prepared the illustrations and the images of the original April 1934 article for publication.  Please pray in thanksgiving for our generous and expert volunteers.

The next article, part 3 of four, gives a step-by-step description of every detail of St. Therese's First Communion Day, telling much about the ceremony and the day that Therese did not record in Story of a Soul.  Please God, I will be able to upload it for the special gift for St. Therese's feast on Wednesday, October 1, 2014.  Please check back.

Help Wanted

  • Read about how I discovered "The Little Flower at School" articles in 2014.  I found these articles just by searching the Internet and following the clue there, and I am confident that many other such treasures await discovery.  If you want to help find them, please e-mail me.  Thank you.

More gifts


Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 11:28PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Pray in the choir of the Carmel of Lisieux with the Carmelite nuns and with St. Therese, September 20, 2014

 The Carmelites of Lisieux at prayer in the choir where St. Therese prayed. Click on the image to make a virtual visit to this choir.

The Carmelites of Lisieux invite you to make a "virtual visit" to the choir where St. Therese and the Carmelites of her day prayed the Divine Office, made their mental prayer, and attended Mass every day.  Join the Lisieux Carmelites in prayer at this 3:20 film on Vimeo, or make the English "pilgrimage visit" they offer on the Web site of the "Carmel de Lisieux."  An audio in English gives the words of St. Therese about prayer. 

As soon as the 15-year-old St. Therese entered the enclosure on April 9, 1888, as she writes, "I was led, as are all postulants, to the choir, and what struck me were the eyes of our holy Mother Genevieve, which were fixed on me."  It was here that she received the Habit on January 10, 1889 and, after her profession, received the black veil on September 24, 1890. 

The professed nuns participated in the Divine Office from their "stalls" against the wall.  At the time of Therese, at least some of them made the morning and evening hour of mental prayer" while sitting "on their heels" on the floor of the choir.  Sister Marie of the Trinity remembers that Therese, who never got enough sleep, often fell asleep during the hour of mental prayer or the thanksgiving after Holy Communion; her head fell over and she slept, her forehead touching the floor. 

It was also here that, at evening prayer, Therese was placed in front of Sister Marie of Jesus, who spent the whole hour unconsciously tapping her teeth with a fingernail.  Read Therese's humorous account of how "I paid close attention so as to hear it well, and my prayer, which was not the Prayer of Quiet, was spent in offering this concert to Jesus."

In the early summer of 1897, Therese was so sick that she had to give up attending the choir. But on August 30, 1897, she was placed on a movable bed and wheeled down the cloister from the infirmary to the entrance to the choir, where "she prayed for some time with her eyes fixed on the Blessed Sacrament.  We photographed her before bringing her in."  See the August 30, 1897 photograph of St. Therese. 

From this choir Therese's Carmelite sisters participated in her funeral Mass on October 4, 1897, and it was here, on March 26, 1923, that they welcomed their sister's body back after the solemn translation of her relics from her grave in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux to the chapel of the Carmel.

We congratulate the "Association les amis de Sainte Therese de Lisieux et de son Carmel" and the Carmelites of Lisieux for producing this beautiful film and for making it available in English.

Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 09:41PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

St. Therese's sister Celine entered the Carmel of Lisieux 120 years ago today, on September 14, 1894


Celine, left, at twelve; Therese, right, at eight, 1881.

120 years ago today, on September 14, 1894, Therese's sister Celine entered the Carmel of Lisieux at the age of 25. She had taken care of her father until his death six weeks before, on July 29, 1894.

Celine's story is told in the book Celine: Sister and Witness of St. Therese of the Child Jesus by a Franciscan priest, Stephane-Joseph Piat, who knew her well in her later years.  (She died on February 25, 1959, at the age of 89).  She herself tells the story of the three years she spent with Therese in Lisieux Carmel in her memoir My Sister Saint Therese, first published in French in the 1950s.

Celine had lived much longer "in the world" than her sisters.  From the age of seventeen she had been in charge at Les Buisonnets.  She had accompanied her father during his confinement in a mental hospital; nursed him, together with Leonie, and managed his household after his release; participated in the social life of the family of her uncle Guerin; refused two proposals of marriage; considered joining the Jesuit Father Almire Pichon in an apostolate in Canada; been an active member of her parish; organized other young women in charitable and apostolic works in Lisieux; and vigorously pursued studies in art, photography, and other fields.  Because she had looked after her father and managed his household, and because of her strong personality, incredible energy, and many talents, Celine's early adjustment to the Carmelite way of life, which at that time was so rigid (for a guide to all its minute customs, see the "Paper of exactions" at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux) for a guide to all their minute customs) was a challenge. Like so many of us do, she often compared herself with Therese and became discouraged despite her courageous efforts.

Read her eyewitness testimony about Therese at the 1910 diocesan process in the book St. Therese of Lisieux by those who knew her at

At the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, read the circular of Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, an account of her life which was prepared at Lisieux and sent to other Carmels at Celine's death.

Read an online biography of Celine on the Web site "Martin Sisters."

September 14, 1894 was an historic date in Carmel not only because of the entrance of the young woman who would give us such valuable testimony about her sister-saint but also for several other reasons:

To make room for Celine, the cells were moved around, and it was to prepare for September 14 that Therese moved into her last cell, which she occupied from then until she left it for the infirmary on July 8, 1897

 When Celine entered, Therese passed on to Celine the ecritoire (small wooden writing-desk held on one's lap) that she herself had been using. Therese replaced it with another, no longer fit for use, which she had found in the attic. So it's on this last, somewhat battered writing-desk, which was displayed in the United States in the summer of 2013, that Therese wrote the three manuscripts of "Story of a Soul"

and all her letters to her spiritual brothers, the young priest Adolphe Roulland and the young seminarian Maurice Belliere.

Celine brought with her a small notebook in which she had copied out extracts from her uncle's Bible. She passed this notebook on to Therese. Since the nuns did not have Bibles, some of the passages were new to Therese. It was in this notebook that Therese found the Scripture passages that were the foundation of her "way of confidence and love": "If anyone is little, let that one come to me." "For to the one that is little, mercy will be shown." "You shall be carried on the knees and fondled at the lap."

Celine also brought that day another object that would be important to the spread of Therese's message: the photographic apparatus with which most of the photographs of Therese as a Carmelite were taken.

May Celine (Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face) obtain for us the grace to enter into following her sister's way of confidence and love with the same energy and courage with which she entered Carmel. 

Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 11:46AM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Cross the threshold of the Carmel of Lisieux with St. Therese of Lisieux. September 13, 2014


Entrance of the monastery from Carmel de Lisieux on Vimeo.



The Carmelites of Lisieux welcome you to a "virtual visit" in English to their monastery. In this first video (3:20), see the entrance to the monastery; the enclosure door through which Therese passed on April 9, 1888; and the open cloisters. Hear Therese's words in English, recreating that occasion. English subtitles explain what you are seeing.


Posted on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 06:53PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint
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