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The 130th annniversary of the First Communion of St. Therese of Lisieux

Therese Martin, the 11-year-old girl who would become St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, received her First Communion on May 8, 1884 at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame du Pre in Lisieux, where she was a student.

Therese's preparation for her First Communion

Therese's careful preparation was aided by her family as well as by the Abbey.  Every night her oldest sister and godmother, Marie, instructed her in the spiritual life.  Pauline, who was already in formation as a Carmelite nun, wrote Therese a little letter every week to encourage her to be as generous as possible to prepare for the great day. Pauline also prepared a notebook which compared Therese's soul to a garden, and Therese used the notebook to record her sacrifices, prayers, and acts of love every day. 

  The Carmelite friars of Verona in Italy have prepared in English a booklet, "40 Days of Preparation for First Communion with St. Therese of Lisieux," which may be ordered in the United States.  Please click on the image for more information.

Thanks to the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, you can read online Therese's memories, written eleven years later, of these months of preparation. 


Therese receives Jesus

About the experience of receiving her First Communion, Therese wrote famously: 

Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus.  It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: "I love You, and I give myself to You forever!"  There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now, Jesus and poor little Therese had looked at and understood each other.  That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion.  Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean.  Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King."  Read more.

Another page of the Web site of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel gives details of the first communions of each of the Martin daughters.  Visit it and, in the far right column, about Therese's first communion, follow the links to:

  • period photos of the Benedictine Abbey, including one photo of a First Communion Mass and one of a catechism class like Therese's;
  • a photo of the copy of the Imitation of Christ Therese received for her First Communion;
  • at the very bottom of the page, a photo (from the 1930s) of the First Communion class gathered before the statue of Mary while one child recites, in the name of all her classmates, the Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin.  

The Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin

Therese writes

In the afternoon, it was I who made the Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin.  It was only right that I speak in the name of my companions to my Mother in heaven, I who had been deprived at such an early age of my earthly mother.  I put all my heart into speaking to her, into consecrating myself to her as a child throwing itself into the arms of its mother, asking her to watch over her.

        In fact, Celine, at her First Communion four years earlier, had been chosen to make this Act of Consecration.  But in Therese's First Communion class were two young girls, Marie and Alexandrine Domin, the nieces of Father Louis Domin, the chaplain of the Benedictine Abbey.  Father Domin taught the students catechism and prepared them for their First Communion. As a compliment to him, the teachers had planned to confer this honor on one of his nieces.  Therese was so distressed at the prospect that her aunt, Mme. Guerin, who was a distant cousin of Father Domin, and Marie visited Mother Saint-Placid to ask her to reverse the decision.  In the end the whole family went to visit Father Domin, who yielded.  Celine wrote years later that she could still see the place in his reception room where she sat, could see Therese's suppliant air and pale face.  (Manuscrits autobiographiques de Sainte-Therese de l'Enfant Jesus by Father Francois de Sainte-Marie, O.C.D. Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, Volume II, p. 23). 

   We no longer have to wait till we're eleven to receive the Eucharist, and many of us have the joy of receiving much more often than Therese did.  She wrote prophetically "We are also the hosts whom Jesus wants to transform into Himself."  May she obtain that grace for us on this anniversary.


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