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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

"Therese of Lisieux the Woman, Doctor of the Church" - October 10, 2017

Statue of St. Therese, St. Pierre's Cathedral, Lisieux

Thérèse of Lisieux the Woman, Doctor of the Church


29. The experience and doctrine of Thérèse of Lisieux gain special significance in our day when new horizons are opening up for the presence and action of women in society and in the Church. Women are called to be "signs of God's tender love towards the human race,"and to enrich humanity with their "feminine genius."25 The young Carmelite of Lisieux accomplished both things in her life. We can see this clearly in her writings.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus transmits her spiritual experience with an engaging feminine style that is direct and intimate. Despite the expectations of her times, she manifested her Gospel conviction on the equality of men and women and the importance of mutual collaboration as disciples of Jesus. We can see this especially in her letters to her missionary brothers with whom she shares her human and spiritual experiences. She does not hesitate to express her point of view on theological issues and Christian experience. She writes about her concept of God's justice, the way of spiritual childhood, and trust in divine mercy.

30. Her femininity, like that of Teresa of Jesus, resulted in greater commitment to the Gospel and to overcoming all the prejudices that emarginated women of her times. Thérèse of Lisieux knew from experience what it was to be a woman in society and in the church at the end of the 18th century. In manuscript A, she tells us clearly and humorously what she felt during her trip to Rome before entering Carmel:

    I still cannot understand why women are so easily excommunicated in Italy, for every minute someone was saying: "Don't enter here. Don't enter there, you will be excommunicated!" Ah! poor women, how they are misunderstood! And yet they love God in much larger numbers than men do; and during the Passion of Our Lord, women had more courage than the apostles since they braved the insults of the soldiers and dared to dry the adorable Face of Jesus.26

Her womanhood, which she expressed with the freshness and sincerity of a free person, led her to a reflection on the Gospel: the emargination of women makes them participate more closely in the mystery of Christ who was despised at his passion. "It is undoubtedly because of this that He allows misunderstanding to be their lot on earth, since he chose it for himself. …In heaven, He will show that His thoughts are not men's thoughts, for then the last will be first."27 Jesus made women the first witnesses of his resurrection.

31. Today as areas for greater participation in society and church open up for women, they can find encouragement in Thérèse of Lisieux to live as John Paul II said, " a culture of equality between men and women." Again Hans Urs von Baltahasar noted, on the occasion of the celebrations for centenary of Thérèse of Lisieux's birth, that she opened the whole field of theology to feminine reflection: "The theology of women has never been taken seriously nor integrated by the establishment. However, after the message of Lisieux, it must finally consider it in the present reconstruction of Dogmatic Theology."28

This corresponds to what the postsynodal document Vita Consecrata presents as new perspectives for women in the Church: "In the field of theological, cultural, and spiritual studies, much can be expected from the genius of women, not only in relation to specific aspects of feminine consecrated life, but also in understanding the faith in all its expressions."29



32. God surprises us anew with this sister of ours. In her he breaks so many patterns of human logic in a way that calls attention to his own gratuitous initiative in choosing those he wants. God seeks to realize his works and manifest the greatness of his power and action in those who open themselves confidently to his merciful love as they accomplish his will.

With the proclamation of the doctorate of St. Thérèse, the Lord confirms what the Old Testament states and the New Testament restates in its fullness: that God communicates himself to the simple, giving them his wisdom and revealing to them the secrets of his life and workings throughout history. In effect, as the book of Wisdom told at the threshold of Christ's coming: "Length of days is not what makes age honorable, nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, this is grey hairs; untarnished life, this is ripe old age. Having won God's favor, he has been loved. …Having come to perfection so soon, he has lived long" (Wis 4:8-10, 13). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, full of joy in the Holy Spirit, proclaims a divine logic so very different from ours: "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it has pleased you to do" (Lk 10:21-22).

33. The Lord, Father of all light, from whom comes all that is good, all that is perfect (cf. Jm 1:17), has given Carmel yet another gift with Thérèse of Lisieux's doctorate. It is a free gift that demands a response of love and generous commitment to our vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. May our sister Thérèse of Lisieux obtain for us from the Lord the grace to be his collaborators in bearing witness and proclaiming the good news to our brothers and sisters of the third millennium. May we be authentic followers of Jesus, in communion with Mary, the first one to receive the joyful news of salvation and who proclaimed it with the joy of one who has discovered that God gives himself freely to the poor, humble, and simple.

Rome, 1 October, 1997

 - excerpted from Therese, A Doctor for the Third Millennium, the joint pastoral letter written by the Carmelite superiors general,  Fr. Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. and Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm., when Therese was named a doctor in 1997.  For the footnotes, please follow the link to the complete document.

Posted on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 08:23PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of Faith for an Unbelieving World" - October 9, 2017

A starry night near Lisieux; Photo credit: L'instantane Normandie

Doctor of Faith for an Unbelieving World


26. The relevance of the doctrine of Thérèse of Lisieux to atheism and unbelief is very plain to see. The Second Vatican Council, in analyzing contemporary atheism, indicated that the word "atheism" covers quite different realities:

    For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that people can assert absolutely nothing about God. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. …Again some form for themselves such a fallacious ideal of God that when they repudiate this figment they are by no means rejecting the God of the Gospel. …Moreover, atheism results not rarely from a violent protest against the evil in this world.20

Through Thérèse of Lisieux's spiritual experience, God desired to speak tangibly to the world of unbelief. She struggled with her faith in the midst of a world that, in the name of science and rationalism, denied the existence of God and turned to atheism.

27. In today's world nonbelievers are different from those in the time of Thérèse. Having experienced the collapse of atheistic and materialistic systems and the frustration of modern life, agnostics and those who are simply indifferent are searching for something that will give meaning to life. They experience vaguely a call to an absolute that could fill their existential emptiness and satisfy their aspirations.

Thérèse of Lisieux directly confronted anguish in the face of death. The atheist's questions about the existence of God and of an afterlife became her problem when, in her trial of faith, she was suddenly submerged in an abyss of anguish and there experienced the distress of nothingness. She was deprived of what she calls "the joy of faith"; she could not "enjoy this beautiful heaven on earth."21 She entered a place of deep darkness that surrounded her and threatened to overwhelm her. She seemed to hear the darkness say: "You believe that one day you will walk out of this fog which surrounds you! Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness."22

28. In the midst of this situation, Thérèse of Lisieux was able to keep her faith and love alive. Her experience of the dark night of purification transformed her so that she was in real and fruitful solidarity with those drowning in the sea of unbelief. Before she experienced the trial of faith, she could not accept that there were people who did not believe: "I was unable to believe that there were really impious people who had no faith. I believed that they were actually speaking against their own inner convictions when they denied the existence of heaven." After her painful experience, she was convinced of the opposite: "During those very joyful days of the Easter season, Jesus made me feel that there were really souls who have no faith"23

Submerged in the most profound darkness, Thérèse did not stop loving the One in whom she trusted. She fought the fight of faith while living in the darkness of unbelievers. This drama made her understand that God wanted her lovingly to offer her own sufferings for unbelievers, to eat with them the bread of affliction, and to sit with them at the table of sinners.24

Many have testified eloquently to conversions to the faith after reading what Thérèse went through. They have discovered in her writing the true face of God. Her words were a beacon as they searched for God in the darkness and amidst temptations to unbelief. Her message has proven its timeliness for those who are estranged, who disbelieve, or who are indifferent.

 - excerpted from Therese, A Doctor for the Third Millennium, the joint pastoral letter written by the Carmelite superiors general,  Fr. Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. and Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm., when Therese was named a doctor in 1997.  For the footnotes, please follow the link to the complete document.

Posted on Monday, October 9, 2017 at 06:40PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of Personal Wholeness" - October 7, 2017


Therese Martin in February 1886, aged thirteen

Saint Therese of Lisieux,
Doctor of Personal Wholeness


23. Thérèse of Lisieux, like anyone else, was subject to the human condition. From a psychological viewpoint, [we can say that] she underwent a liberating process that led her both to accept herself, and also maturely to accept her own limitations.

The internal tensions, spiritual wounds, and all sort of other influences at work in our world make it hard for people to become fully persons. Thérèse of Lisieux, too, was shaped by her family, social, and religious environment with its limitations and imperfections. She learned to accept them, and, in doing so, she liberated herself from them to become, with God's grace, a free person: one who discovered the faithful and merciful God of Jesus Christ. Therese teaches us to profit from everything so that we may grow and mature, both as human beings and as Christians.

24. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face struggled to overcome all that hindered her from being herself. On the way to human maturity, she experienced trauma at the death of her mother. It deeply affected her.17 Her love for God, and friendship with him, awakened in her a liberating process that enabled her to use all these influences to achieve personal wholeness.

Her fourth through fourteenth years were a painful period in her life. She had problems in school where she felt some were antagonistic toward her. Then her sister and second, mother, Pauline, entered Carmel. As a result of this separation, she became seriously ill. It was a psychosomatic illness. Later on she was tormented by scruples.18

All these sufferings were due to her hypersensitivity: "When I began to cheer up, I'd begin to cry again for having cried."19 She lived trapped in a vicious circle, not knowing how to escape.

It was not until Christmas Eve, 1886, that she was healed of her hypersensitivity and began to walk in the way of love and of surrender to Jesus. From this time on, she was free of those interior bonds, able fully to enjoy life and to take pleasure in studies, in contacts with others, in nature and travel, and other good things.

25. Family and social problems torment many men and women today and cause them anguish and anxiety about the future. Thérèse of Lisieux shows them how to welcome into their lives the love of God and love for others and, by doing so, turn to their advantage the fear caused by the uncertainties of the day. Knowledge of a God who is a merciful Father and who surrounds all of us with his love and providence brings us peace and joy. Thérèse presents to a world sick with fear and anguish the therapy of love of God and confidence in him and of service and commitment to others. She has discovered the profound truth that a merciful God wants to give himself fully to all those who open themselves to him, and she has passed that truth on to us.

 - excerpted from Therese, A Doctor for the Third Millennium, the joint pastoral letter written by the Carmelite superiors general,  Fr. Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. and Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm., when Therese was named a doctor in 1997.  For the footnotes, please follow the link to the complete document.

Posted on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:48PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"St. Therese of Lisieux at School, Part 4," the fourth of four articles written for The Far East in 1934 by a Benedictine nun who taught Therese. October 1, 2017

The Little Flower at School

by One of Her Teachers

The Last Article on St. Thérèse, Schoolgirl… Translated from the Account Written Specially for The Far East by a Nun of the Benedictine Abbey, Lisieux, Who had the Little Flower in Her Class

[Fourth of a series of four articles published in The Far East, June 1934, pp. 6-9.]

With thanks to the Missionary Society of St. Columban, I present this fourth 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 Far East" in 1934 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Thérèse's First Communion (May 8, 1884).  For decades the articles lay forgotten in the archives.  I'm most grateful to the Columban Missionaries and to The Far East for permission to publish the series on "Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway."  This article concudes the series.

St. Therese and her sister Celine (reproduced in The Far East by special permission of the Carmel of Lisieux)

Thérèse received the sacrament of Confirmation on the fourteenth of June following her first Communion.  She herself tells how seriously she prepared for the coming of the Holy Ghost.  During the short retreat preceding the ceremony she was remarkable for her great recollection as she studied, with devotion, the gifts of the Holy Ghost and questioned her catechism mistress about them.

And now Thérèse has finished her two years in the classe violette.  She is no longer a mere child.  January, 1885, will see her reaching the age of twelve – practically the half of her short life.

She will have only eighteen more months in the Abbey school.  And during that time she is to be under the care of – myself!

When school reopened in October, 1884, little Thérèse Martin entered the classe orange which was entrusted to me.  [The various classes were distinguished by belts of different colors.  The orange class was the second highest.  See The Far East for April. – Ed.]  It gave me real pleasure to number her among my pupils.  In her reputation for great industry, intelligence and blameless conduct there was much to awaken the interest of a young teacher.

A Teacher’s Memoirs

Hitherto I had seen Thérèse only at a certain distance.  Now I could observe her more closely.

I was not deceived in my expectations.  This Benjamin of the class – she was not yet twelve, while her companions were girls of thirteen and fourteen – had no difficulty in keeping pace with the studies.  At once, in fact, she distinguished herself by her successes.

Every week a decoration was awarded which the pupil wore at the belt of her uniform.  A silver decoration was given for obtaining first place in the test, a silver gilt for getting a hundred per cent.  The latter was also the reward, at the end of the month, for the pupil who for four consecutive weeks had worn the silver emblem.

Handwriting exercise of St. Thérèse as a schoolgirl. Her name “T. Martin” is written on the upper right, and the date, “Monday, 8 February" on the upper left. Feb. 8 fell on a Monday in 1886. The text includes the following: “Why fear death if one has lived well enough to have no fear of the consequences? Love and then do all you desire. To suffer or to die, Lord!”

It was very rarely that Thérèse did not win one or the other of these decorations.  She always knew her lessons very well; her tasks were done with exactness and serious application; her copybooks showed words done to perfection.  The thought of God never left her.  At the head of all her exercises she wrote the letters J.M.J.T., for “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Teresa.”  Sometimes she added, F.P.A.P.Y., that is, Francis, her second baptismal patron, Paul and Agnes, patrons of her sister Pauline, who in the Carmel has become Mother Agnes of Jesus.  The meaning of the last two initials is not known.

At this age Thérèse was still very simple and childlike in her ways.  But she had beautiful ideas and it is worth remarking how in compositions she always brought in a devotional thought about the supernatural.

Her Difficulties

As we have said, she was weak in spelling and especially in arithmetic.  How many times she cried over problems!  On the other hand, it was a pleasure to hear her recite one of La Fontaine’s fables, she did it so naturally and with such expression.  She shone in history and geography.

Thérèse studied none of the accomplishments such as drawing, etc.  In her autobiography, however, we can see how she longed to take lessons in drawing like her sister Céline, and what a heroic sacrifice she offered to Jesus in this matter.  Later on, in the Carmel, God was pleased to make up to her for this.  All at once Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus became an artist whose work is truly charming.

In a word, Thérèse was a highly interesting pupil.

We must not hide the less pleasing aspect of her character as it then was.  Let us hasten to add that the defect of which we speak was the only one.

A Weakness

Thérèse was an excessively sensitive child. It was distressing to see how readily and how freely her tears would flow.  Has she not admitted this herself, with deep humility?  “Tears were almost habitual with me at that time,” she writes, “I would cry not only for big reasons but also for the very least…. Then I would cry for having cried.  My extreme sensitiveness made me simply impossible.  All attempts to reason with me were fruitless.  I could not rid myself of this wretched defect…. A little miracle was needed to make ne grow out of this weakness all at once.”

Oratory of Souvenirs, Benedictine Abbey School Formerly the oratory of the Children of Mary. Here are kept her Child of Mary medal, the kneeler she knelt on when receiving her First Communion, the prie-dieu she used in the gallery of the chapel (seen here draped with the white cloth) a composition of hers, etc.This miracle of grace took place on Christmas night, 1886, but by then Thérèse was no longer our pupil.

This is what would happen.  In spite of all her efforts, it might occur that Thérèse did not come first in a test.  What a shock!  What was the matter?  Our Thérèse would melt into tears and it was impossible to console her.  The same thing would happen if her marks were only fair or if the Mistress raised her voice slightly and seemed displeased with her – a rare enough occurrence, as her conduct was exemplary.

This imperfection gave me an opportunity of noticing her fundamental strength of soul for, despite the distress that gave rise to these copious tears, she remained always amiable and calm.  She never sulked.  She would weep silently, offering no excuses for herself.

How pained I was, upset at seeing her grieve so much.  I tried to correct this failing of hers, which her schoolmates criticized with the sharp intolerance of their years.  I even gave her a little scolding for it, but Thérèse was not by nature one to be brought on by severity.  I realized this very clearly, for the only result of my remonstrations was to make her tears fall still more copiously.  One had rather to win her by reasoning; to this, because of her innate common sense, she would respond more readily.

This recollection of having once scolded her who was later to win universal admiration would be very painful to me, if I did not remind myself that in some small degree I was the instrument of God’s goodness.  He wanted her to become perfect.

Never have I thought that the tears of Thérèse were the product of self-love or ambition.  She imagined that she would be less pleasing to God and that her father would be disturbed, when her marks did not come up to expectations.  Céline has confirmed us in this.

The following incident shows how these tears really arise from excessive delicacy of conscience.


Wishing to keep the pupils from answering for one another or whispering the answers to classmates who did not know their lesson, I had said that to do this was not only out of order but further that this breach of discipline might lead the Mistress into error and give rise to an unintentional injustice.  Since Thérèse always knew her lesson perfectly, she had happened to transgress in this matter pretty often.  Now she saw herself at fault.  The catechism Mistress, to whom she confided her troubles of conscience, had great difficulty in reassuring and consoling her.  This example sheds light on these lines of the autobiography:  “My scrupulosity finished by making me ill and I had to be taken from school at the age of thirteen.”

It was indeed at this time that the Lord permitted His child to be assailed by scruples, the dreadful malady that for two years caused her a painful martyrdom.  They began during the retreat in preparation for the solemn renewal of First Communion, on May 21.  During these three closing months of the school year, however, her studies showed no adverse effects from her suffering condition.  Under the eyes of God alone, through her constant fidelity to grace, her soul had progressed in light and in love; she had been given strength to bear the cross.

Thérèse carried off the first awards and was loudly applauded on the day of the distribution of prizes.  It was a legitimate recompense for her constant application to study, and it gave her all the more pleasure since God had seen fit to deprive her of it in previous years, when, because of her long absences from school, she was unable to compete.

What more have I to say of our little Thérèse?  Certainly there is nothing extraordinary to tell…. But how admirable were her candor, her simplicity, her piety, her constant faithfulness to duty!  Her angelic purity gave her a heavenly expression.  To her the supernatural seemed almost to come naturally.  There was, consequently, never anything affected about her.  She had a very keen mind, not above a little roguishness at times.

Bark of tree on which St. Thérèse carved the letters B/M; crucifix before which she cried during a catechism lesson on venial sin; her grammar.

 To satisfy the desire of someone who wanted a souvenir from her, she took the notion to cut with her penknife the letters  in the bark of a lime tree.  The person for whom this novel souvenir was intended could never get the explanation of it, no matter how she persisted with her enquiries.  Since then, the lime tree has been cut down but the piece of bark has been kept in the oratory of souvenirs.

I must confess that I showed myself rather strict towards Thérèse.  Knowing that she was worshipped at home, I wanted to counterbalance this, for her own good.  I also wanted to ward off those little jealousies that her constant successes in her studies were likely to arouse.  I trust that she forgives me now.

Interior Suffering

During the following year her trial continued.  Thérèse Still carried the heavy cross of scrupulosity.  No one who has felt the weight of that cross will find it hard to understand that under such conditions study and school life, with all that it demanded, far from alleviating only increased the burden.

I recall that very often the child’s features betrayed a sadness that surprised me, because I thought that she was very happy.  Nevertheless, she was still a model pupil but her health was visibly beginning to fail.  She had continual headaches and as a result her absences from school became very frequent.  Another sorrow weighed upon her affectionate heart.  Her beloved Céline, president of the Children of Mary, having completed her studies very successfully at the close of the previous school year in July, no longer kept her sister company at school.  It was only with difficulty that the little girl became used to her absence.

Thérèse had one consolation, however.  In 1882, on May 31, she had received the red ribbon of the Sodality of the Holy Angels.  On December 14, 1884, the sodalists voted to make her a counsellor.  On the following February 2, Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, she joined, as an aspirant, the sodality of the Children of Mary.  We shall see how highly she valued this privilege.

Thérèse Leaves

M. Martin, deciding that his little daughter was no longer physically able for the regular classwork, resolved that she should finish her education by means of private tuition in town.  Accordingly at Easter, 1886, Thérèse stopped coming to school.  To completer her studies in the normal course she would not only have had to finish that year but to spend two more in the classe bleue.  Her leaving at the earlier date, regrettable though it seemed at the time, facilitated her in preparing to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen.

Our dear Thérèse, however, had not departed from our school for good.  We had the happiness of seeing her again, though only in passing.

Sodality Candidate

She had the disappointment of leaving without receiving the blue ribbon and the cherished medal of the Children of Mary.  Solemn receptions into the sodality took place only twice a year – on December 8 and on May 31.  Consequently she came now to Mother St. Placide and asked the favor of being received as a Child of Mary.  Mother Directress was delighted with this request from Thérèse, of whom, she was always so fond, but her reply could only be that she would consult the president and counsellors of the sodality.  This was the first time that such a case – that of a girl who had already left the school – had come up and it would create a precedent.  It was to be expected, therefore, that at first there should be some hesitation.  But it was not for long.  Mother St. Placide gave utterance to a prophetic sentence that dispelled all misgivings.

“I don’t believe,” she told the counsellors, “that you will ever have any reason to regret having admitted Thérèse Martin into the sodality.”

One condition, however, was imposed.  Since the aspirant’s health did not permit her regular attendance at school, she was asked to come at least twice a week.  There was nothing out-of-the-way in this stipulation, as any of our past pupils might return to the Abbey to follow the lessons in needlework, drawing and painting and the like, which were given in the afternoons.

Thérèse readily agreed.  She writes, however:  “I must admit that it cost me something of an effort, on account of my great shyness.”

Accordingly we saw her among us again – twice a week, from one o’clock until five.  Once more we quote her own words, telling how she spent her time on these occasions.

Before the Tabernacle

“I worked away silently, until the end of the lesson, and then, as no one took any notice of me, I would go up in the gallery of the chapel and stay there until Father called for me.”

More notice was taken of her, however, than she suspected.  Some of the more serious-minded pupils were observing her modest recollection admiringly and without venturing to speak to her, tried at least to catch her eye and attract her smile of greeting – a smile so sweet that it was indelibly impressed on one’s memory.  Without her knowing it, she was even followed up to the gallery by one companion, who writes her impressions as follows:  “She was praying there, utterly lost in God.  Kneeling in the centre of the gallery, directly opposite the Tabernacle, she looked like an angel.”

Thérèse herself has written, “In this quiet visit I found my one consolation.  Was not Jesus my only Friend?  To Him alone could I speak.”

A few days before May 31 the voting for admission to the two sodalities took place, with the chaplain and Mother Directress presiding.  Needless to say, Thérèse Martin was among those chosen for membership in the Children of Mary.

The ceremony of reception took place in the Abbey chapel. That hallowed chapel with its precious memories of First Communion.  How happy Thérèse was, to be received as a Child of Mary in the same place and before the same altar where two years earlier she had consecrated herself to the Blessed Virgin.

After her reception Thérèse came to the Abbey only on every first Sunday of the month, to attend the conference given by the chaplain in the oratory of the sodality.  All the sodalists who had left school came to these meetings until they married.

At length the time came when Thérèse was to realize her great desire of entering Carmel at the age of fifteen.

Her entrance was set for April 9, and one afternoon she came back to her old school to say goodbye.  For her affectionate heart this was indeed an occasion of genuine suffering, foreshadowing the anguish, now imminent, of the final parting from her dear ones at home.

Farewell Visit

She went quickly from one classhall to another, meeting the Mistresses.  Most of them were unaware that this visit was to be her last.  She overlooked no one.  Her last meeting with me was as follows.

We were then having the quarterly tests and I was examining the pupils orally.  Suddenly, turning around, I saw a tall girl beside me.  It was Thérèse Martin.  How she had changed!  Her long curly tresses were done up in a knot on her head; she wore a dress of rather grown-up design.  No longer had she that charmingly childish appearance.

“Thérèse!” I said, in surprise, adding in regretful tones:  “You have put up your hair!”

Smiling mysteriously, she answered in that slow-speaking little voice of hers:

“Yes, Mother.”

Forthwith Thérèse realized that I knew nothing of her plans.  I asked her to wait until I had finished questioning my pupil.  We then went out to the head of the stairs close by.

A Last Meeting

Our conversation was short.  She seemed a little embarrassed and so was I.  On leaving, she embraced me affectionately.  As for what we said, alas, I cannot recall it now.

A little later, Thérèse met a lay-Sister and said to her:  “I have just seen Mother ―.  She has no idea that I have come to say goodbye.  I wanted to tell her but I simply could not get the words out.  I was afraid I would break down.  She will be so sorry when she hears the truth.”

The dear child was not mistaken.  I was very much grieved at the thought of not seeing her any more.  But I admired her strength of character.  She had completely mastered her excessive sensitiveness.

From a Letter Written by St. Thérèse as Postulant In December 1888 Sister Thérèse wrote from the Carmel to her former teacher at the Abbey school, Mother St. Placide, thanking her for a letter announcing the approaching golden jubilee of the Children of Mary Sodality and gratefully recalling her First Communion and Consecration to the Blessed Virgin tracing the seed of her vocation to it. The following is a reproduction of the concluding paragraph. Translation: Likewise please do not forget to give my greetings to my happy companions i.e. on the day of the jubilee celebration whose little sister in Mary I still remain. Adieu, my dear Mistress. I hope that in your holy prayers you will not forget her who is and will ever be your grateful child, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus Postulant, Discalced Carmelite

While she was a postulant and then a novice, several of her former schoolmates went to see her.  Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus welcomed them heartily and asked affectionately for all the nuns.  Naturally she was inspected from head to foot and questioned all about her life as a Carmelite.  The little Sister had lost none of her delightful simplicity and she satisfied her visitors’ curiosity in her own charming way.  During the visits she kept the hourglass, as well as her workbasket, at her side.  She kept sewing as she chatted and observed strict guard over her eyes – a fact which did not escape her edified friends.

She took the black veil on September 24, 1890.  The newly professed Sister, henceforth hidden away in the cloister of Carmel, had now disappeared from our eyes and her history was to be ours no longer.

In the year following her happy death, her autobiography, the Story of a Soul, came to reveal to us the hidden treasure that we had once possessed.  The book was read enthusiastically both by the children preparing for First Communion and by the pupils and alumnae during the annual retreat.  The splendid volume was given as a prize; to read it was a coveted privilege.  The poems of St. Thérèse were also greatly enjoyed and the girls would love to sing them on their walks.  Thus among our pupils St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrought the beginnings of an apostolate that was soon to embrace the whole world.


(This concludes the series of four articles, special to The Far East, written by Mother …., of the Abbey of Notre Dame du Pré, Lisieux, France, and translated by the editor.  Mother …. Is one of the surviving teachers of the Little Flower.  The first article in the series appeared in March.  The May article described the First Communion of St. Thérèse in the Abbey chapel, May 8, 1884.  Back numbers of The Far East containing the earlier articles are still available.)


Editor's Note: this article originally appeared in the March 1934 issue of The Far East (U.S.A. edition).  It is reprinted by “Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway” with permission from the Missionary Society of St. Columbanat  Permission is granted to duplicate this article in whole for sharing in groups, but not to republish it; please include this notice of acknowledgement. 

To learn more about the Columban Missions, or to send a thank-offering, please visit

Special thanks to Linda Smith, who typed this article for publication, and to Scott Smith, who formatted the print-friendly version you may download. 

Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 09:28PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Make a virtual pilgrimage to the infirmary where St. Therese of Lisieuxdied on September 30, 1897

Infirmerie VF from Carmel de Lisieux on Vimeo.

At 7:20 p.m. on September 30, 1897, 119 years ago, St. Therese died in a little infirmary on the ground floor of the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux.  In honor  of the anniversary of her death, visit this little room courtesy of the film, and, while there, pray for your special intentions and for the dying, that they may enter into life with Therese.