LES BUISSONNETSTHE DEATH of her mother marks the beginning of a new period in the life of the Little Flower. She, herself, terms it the most sorrowful ten years of her life. "Immediately after the death of Mamma my naturally happy disposition left me." This was in no way due to any lack of attention on the part of her father or her sisters. It seemed that Providence wanted to test her patience and steel her courage even at that early age. She became timid, shy and sensitive, so that it was a real source of pain to her to meet strangers. She was at ease only at home with her dear ones.
It frequently happens that after the demise of a loved one, the relatives seek a new domicile where they will not constantly and painfully be put in mind of the departed. This was not Louis Martins motive when he decided to leave Alencon and settle down in Lisieux with his motherless children. His object, in making the change of residence, was to bring his girls near their mothers brother, M. Guerin, a chemist in the town of Lisieux and to secure for them the advantage of the advice of Mme. Guerin. The Little Flower tells us that she "felt no grief in leaving Alencon." This indiffer
Therese became quickly and devotedly attached to the new home which bore the name, Les Buissonnets. "The trim lawn in front of the house, the kitchen garden at the back, the distant view from the attic windows all this appealed to my young imagination. Its situation, too, was an added charm, for it stood in a quiet part of the town, within easy reach of a beautiful park laid out with flowers. This pleasant abode became the scene of many joys, and of family gatherings which I can never forget. Elsewhere, as I have said above, I felt an exile; I cried and fretted for Mamma; but here my little heart expanded and I smiled on life once more." The writers first impression on visiting Les Buissonnets nearly a decade ago, was that its occupants must have been rather comfortably situated financially. This is not surprising. Louis Martin had been an honest and diligent jeweller of more than ordinary repute. Mme. Martin had acquired a considerable fortune in the lace-making industry. The combined earnings of these two industrious souls was sufficient not merely to care for the convenient rearing and educating of the children, but also to provide for them an attractive though modest home.
Our little Saints love for the poor was fostered by the example of her beloved father. Elsewhere we have seen, that it was his desire to attend the early Mass in the parish church, so that he might pray with the poor who were the earliest worshippers in the morning.
33On his fishing trips, in which Therese usually participated, he gloried in the anticipation of sharing his catch with the paupers of his town. This attention paid to unfortunates was bound to have a contagious effect upon the impressionable heart of the Little Flower. The winding path leading up the slope to Les Buissonnets soon became hallowed by the frequent spectacle of a little girl dealing out to the poor the little money that had been entrusted to her.
In the poor, the babe of the Martin family saw the reflection of the Christ-Child in Bethlehems manger. Jesus also was once poor. "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not whereon to rest His Head." The cave of Bethlehem had a special appeal to the heart of Therese. That she might meditate even in moments of play upon the poverty of the Holy Family, she fashioned with her own hands the various figures of a miniature crib and placed them neatly in a recess hollowed out of the garden wall at Les Buissonnets. The tiny group may still be seen by visitors at that sacred spot.
SERMONS IN STONESTHERESE has often been called the Apostle of the commonplace. We search in vain for startling events in her brief span of years here below. If anything seemed unusual for a girl of her tender years, it was her premature power of reflection upon the goodness and greatness of God and the brevity and vanity of this life. She was not yet five years old when the following incident occurred. Her "King," as she affectionately called her father, took her with him on one of his fishing trips. Towards the close of the afternoon, when it was time to return home, Therese decided to eat the remaining provisions in her little basket which had been prepared specially by Pauline. When she glanced into the basket, she noticed that the very slices of bread and jam looked different than they had in the morning. Then, "they were so fresh and tempting, and now they appeared so stale and uninviting." Commenting upon this experience years later he Little Flower wrote: "Even a trifle such as this made seem sadder, and I realized that only in Heaven re be unclouded joy."
In later years, as Novice Mistress, she was heard to say: "It frequently needs but a word or a smile to impart fresh life to a despondent soul."
She herself would probably have given way to despair, had she not read messages of hope and encouragement in the stars, the sea, the animals of the earth and the birds of the air. They all spoke to her of a land of unfading beauty, a house of many mansions where her beauty-thirsty soul would drink to its fill of the goodness and greatness of God.
To other children, a starlit sky presents a world of diamonds and a host of fancies. To Therese, it was all that and more. On her way home from her uncles once a week, she would point heavenward and tell her father that her initial "T" was written clearly in the constellation which astronomers call Orion. Truly this was a unique discovery for a child of five to make.
The same serious trend of thought was revealed on the occasion of Thereses first visit to the sea. The six year old Saint was walking on the strand with her sister, Pauline, along the English Channel. The sun, a big ball of fire, appeared to dip into the immensity of the waves, leaving a furrow of golden light behind. Pauline explained to Therese that the furrow of light was the image of grace enlightening the path of faithful souls. Therese decided then and there, that she would ever remain a tiny bark on the ocean of life and that she would never lose sight of the sun of Justice, her God, Who would bring her safely to the port of Heaven.
36 The Little Flower saw "sermons in stones," yes, even in insignificant peach stones. One day when tripping lightly through the orchard, she came upon a peach hanging low from a bough. Immediately she began to philosophize something like this: "From this peach I can learn a lesson. See what the peach gives away and what it keeps for itself. It permits its skin to be pierced and torn for man. It permits its fleshy fruit to be consumed by man, and thenit keeps for itself nothing but the bare and dry stone! How different it is with selfish man. He keeps for himself what is the best and throws to others what is of little worth." ******
The Little Flower of the Child Jesusa portrait painted by her sister, Celine.
37 IX. CONFESSION AND EDUCATION
IT IS NOT surprising that she, who saw such grandeur in the world about her, should wish to keep her inner self beautiful and unspotted. This partly explains her eager desire to have her soul cleansed as early as possible in the Sacrament of Penance.
Therese refers to her first Confession (probably in the year 1878) as an especially consoling memory. We wonder what this five-year-old girl could have had to confess. On her death-bed eighteen years later, she could look squarely into the face of her Creator and declare: "Oh God, because I have never deliberately refused you one thing that you have asked of me, I know that you will never refuse me a single thing that I ask of you." What then could burden the heart of the Little Flower of five years?
She received this Sacrament in the beautiful Gothic church of St. Pierre, the Patron of Penitents. It was Pauline who prepared her for this event, and we have reason to believe that the preparation was very thorough. Writing to her instructor (Pauline) years later, Therese says: "You had told me, dear Mother, that it was not to a man but to God Himself that I was going to tell my sins, and this truth so impressed me, that I asked you seriously if I should tell Father Ducellier I loved him with all my heart, since it was God I was going to speak to in his person."
Behold a little child grasping a truth which thousands of non-believers fail to comprehend in our day: That the priest is not a mere man when he sits in the tribunal of penance, but that he exercises a power that is divine by reason of the words addressed to him by Christ through the Apostles: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."Spiritual reading has always been a powerful factor in fashioning the lives of the saints. If Therese early caught the spirit of the Church, if she early learned to live its feasts and become an active member of its body, she could attribute this progress in large measure to the pious practice which prevailed in her home, of concluding the day with readings from an instructive book known as the Liturgical Year. Seated upon her fathers knee, she would drink in every syllable which fell from the lips of the reader, who was usually her eldest sister, Marie. Thus did this "miniature of perfection," as Pope Pius XI loved to call Therese, become churchminded. Thus did she become instructed in the mysteries which the Church brings vividly before our minds with the recurrence of her beautiful feasts. To the Little Flower, every Sunday was a feast. First of all, it was Almighty Gods feast and then a day of rest.
39 The Benedictine, Convent at Lisieux was privileged to give the Little Flower her first school training. It is with a note of disappointment, and yet with a tinge of triumph, that she writes of this experience: "The girls of my class were all older than I; one of them was fourteen, and, though not at all clever, she knew how to impose on her companions. Seeing me, in spite of my years, nearly always first in class, and a favorite with all the nuns, she became jealous; and paid me out in a thousand ways. Naturally timid and sensitive, I was unable to defend myself, and took refuge in tears. Neither my little Mother (Pauline) nor Celine knew of these troubles, and, as I was not advanced enough in virtue to rise above them, I suffered a great deal." In those days of important beginnings, the Little Flower relied greatly for support on the encouragement and sympathy of her saintly father. Each evening she would climb upon his knee and tell of her accomplishments and receive a reward for her efforts. The prize was usually a tender kiss and a fond embrace from her "King." Once a week it assumed the form of a silver coin, which Therese was quick to drop into her money-box for the poor. The world would probably be minus a St. Therese today, had not Louis Martin surrounded his Little Flower with favors during that trying time. When she had grown to maturity, she looked back upon those early school days and wrote: "Such kindnesses were in my case a real necessity; the Little Flower needed to strike its tender roots deeper and deeper into the dearly loved garden of the home, for nowhere else could it find the nourishment it required."
40 Parents who read these lines might well ask themselves whether or not they are giving similar attention to the character building of their little ones. The city of the saints would probably become more densely populated if modern fathers and mothers would bother themselves more about the education of their children. ******
41 X. SATANS ASSAULT
A NEW GRIEF was prepared for Therese in the departure of her sister, Pauline, for the Carmelite Convent in the year 1882. Her first mother had been taken away from her by death when the Little Flower was but four years old. Since that time she had regarded her cherished sister, Pauline, as her second mother. Naturally, when the little Saint saw Pauline making preparations for entrance into Carmel, she experienced bitter anguish of spirit. Her little heart seemed broken. Within two months of the dreaded separation, she was stricken by a severe malady which puzzled her doctor and gave serious alarm to her father and sisters. The patient suffered constant headaches. At times she would become delirious. Everything frightened her. "The bed seemed to be surrounded by awful precipices, and nails in the wall would assume the ghastly appearance of huge, coal-black fingers, filling me with terror and at times making me cry out with fright. Once while Papa stood looking at me in silence, the hat in his hand was suddenly transformed into some horrible shape, and I showed so much fear that he turned away sobbing."
42 Little wonder that, in her Autobiography written more than a decade later, she refers to this sickness as an attempt on the part of Satan to avenge himself on her for the grief which was caused him by Paulines entrance into the convent. He would employ all the powers of Hell to avert anything of similar nature from happening in the future. If his fiendish cunning could bring it about, he would keep the Little Flower from reaching such an age which would enable her to follow in the footsteps of her elder sister.
The Martin family knew how to meet the assaults of the evil one. When medical aid proved useless they did not despair. They turned to one who is "as powerful as an army in battle array." On numerous occasions the Mother of God had made her presence felt in the affairs of this motherless family. They now turned to her with renewed hope and redoubled confidence. Pilgrimages were made to the Shrine of Our Lady of Victory in Paris. Novenas of Masses were arranged with the priests there. Heaven could not be unmoved by the prayers which stormed the throne of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. A statue of the Heavenly Queen stood near the sick-bed of the tiny sufferer. One day when Thereses condition became more serious than it had been hitherto, her three sisters, Marie, Leonie and Celine threw themselves at the foot of this image and prayed as they had never prayed before. "That cry of faith forced the gates of Heaven." The Little Flower sweetly describes what happened. "Suddenly the statue became animated and radiantly beautifulwith a divine beauty that no words of mine can ever convey.
43 The look upon Our Ladys face was unspeakably kind and sweet and compassionate, but what penetrated to the very depths of my soul was her gracious smile. Instantly all my pain vanished, my eyes filled, and big tears fell silently, tears of purest heavenly joy."
Visitors at Lisieux today will find this miraculous statue in the little side chapel of Carmel, where the remains of St. Therese are encased in a rich reliquary donated by the faithful of Brazil. The image is called "Our Lady of the Smile" and is regarded as one of the most precious possessions of the Carmelite Convent.
44 XI. FIRST HOLY COMMUNION THE MIRACULOUS CURE of the Little Flower served to deepen and broaden and lengthen the love of her child-like soul for the Savior, Whom she would soon receive into her heart for the first time. She prepared herself diligently for that day of days, by the study of holy pictures and the reading of religious books. One of the pictures, which made a firm and lasting impression upon her youthful mind, depicted a little flower blooming in the shadow of the Tabernacle. That picture expressed the dearest wish of her heart: to spend her life before Gods tiny Eucharistic dwelling, consoling Him and affectionately caring for Him until the day should come when He would gather her into His eternal garden of Heaven.
Therese refers to the day of her First Holy Communion as "one of unclouded happiness." To her eldest sister, Marie, is due much of the joy which the little Saint experienced on that day. With the aid of a book entitled "Two Months of Preparation for First Communion," Marie gradually and thoroughly grounded her little sister in those sacred truths which prepare the soul for union with its God.
One thought that was more stressed than all others in the instructions was that it is folly to trample underfoot the treasures and opportunities which lie all about us, while we hurry on to heights too difficult to reach. Sanctity can be achieved more readily by doing little things well, than by attempting colossal undertakings which we are not certain of accomplishing. Why chase after the rare wild flower that is found on the lofty ledges of dangerous cliffs, while the valley beneath your feet is replete with flowers of equal worth and beauty?Tense are the hours and the minutes and the seconds that precede the first coming of Our Lord into the heart of a child. It would seem that the salvation of the world depended upon that meaningful meeting. We can imagine how the ambitious heart of the Little Flower glowed with the desire to help the poor on that auspicious occasion. Her prayers were not confined to the intentions of her relatives, but to the needs of the entire world. Like unto the missionary fathers who wear a crucifix in their belt to remind them that their love must be universal in its scope, Therese carried a crucifix in her belt when she was preparing herself for her First Holy Communion. Little did she realize at that early hour of her life what a consolation the image of the Crucified would be to her throughout her subsequent career. In imitation of Him, she would be pierced with the nails of disappointment, dug with the lance of disease, crowned with the thorns of scruples; in a word, she was to become a living replica of the King on the Cross.
46 It were folly to describe the Little Flowers First Holy Communion Day in other words than her own. "At last there dawned the most beautiful day of all the days of my life. How perfectly I remember even the smallest details of those sacred hours! The joyful awakening, the reverent and tender embraces of my mistresses and older companions, the room filled with white frocks, like so many snow-flakes, where each child was dressed in turn, and, above all, our entrance into the chapel and the melody of the morning hymn: Oh Altar of God, where the Angels are hovering.
"How sweet was the first embrace of Jesus! It was indeed an embrace of love. I felt that I was loved, and I said: I love Thee, and I give myself to Thee for ever. Jesus asked nothing of me, and claimed no sacrifice; for a long time He and little Therese had known and understood one another. That day our meeting was more than simple recognition, it was perfect union. We were no longer two. Therese had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the immensity of the ocean; Jesus alone remainedHe was the Master, the King. Had not Therese asked Him to take away the liberty which frightened her? She felt herself so weak and frail, that she wished to be for ever united to the Divine Strength."The occasion of Thereses First Holy Communion was a reunion with her dear mother departed and other loving souls who had long since passed from this world, but not from her memory. The saintly First Communicant reasoned this: "How could our darling Mothers absence grieve me? Since Heaven itself dwelt in my soul, in receiving the visit of Jesus I received one from her as well."
47 She also regarded the Body and Blood of Christ received in Holy Communion as the bond which united her more closely than ever to her loved ones on earth. Theologians have written sublimely on the beautiful doctrine known as the Mystical Body of Christ. None of them have ever illustrated it more clearly or more convincingly than our little theologian, Therese, on the occasion of her First Holy Communion. Christ is the Head and the faithful are the members. We are all one in Christ. This is a soothing doctrine. The faithful on earth, the saints in Heaven and the souls in Purgatory are all one body in Christ Jesus Our Lord. When we are united with Him, there is no wall between time and eternity, between heaven and earth, between the faithful departed and the faithful living. If this truth were better understood, as the Little Flower understood it, our spacious churches would not present the pitiable spectacle of rows of empty pews. They would be crowded from communion Rail to vestibule with practical Catholics eager to receive the Bread of Life, the Strength of Souls, the King of the Living and of the Dead.
Strengthened by this Heavenly Manna, the Little Flower felt sure that she would be able to keep the three resolutions which she had made on the eve of her First Holy Communion Day: 1) "I will never give away to discouragement;" 2) "I will say the Memorare every day;" 3) "I will endeavor to humble my pride."
According to custom, M. Martin presented his "little Queen" with a precious watch as a souvenir of this festive day. Therese rejoiced in receiving this gift, though she did not permit it to disturb the peace of soul which flooded her heart at the advent of her Savior. It were like holding a candle to the sun to expect that any earthly jewel could add anything to the joy which she experienced in possessing the Maker and Redeemer of the world in her heart. He Who had set the first great timepiece, the sun, in its place and had ever since kept it glowing; He Who had fixed the stars in their spheres; He Who had set in motion the waters of the deep; He Who had conceived of and created the angels, the saints, and the inhabitants of all nations; He in Whom we live and move and have our being; He was now in her heart, and she would permit no thing fashioned by earthly hands to distract her attention from the Divine Guest of her soul.
THE LADY KNIGHT
SHORTLY AFTER her First Holy Communion, the Little Flower felt a wave of consolation sweeping over her soul, bringing with it "an ardent desire for suffering" as well as the conviction that she should have many a cross to bear. From that time on, she considered suffering as a treasure, a charm which rendered her more like unto her Beloved Savior, nailed to Calvarys Cross.
We must not be led to think that Therese was presumptuous. No one was more convinced than was she, of the truth of Christs words: "Without Me you can do nothing." She was fully conscious of the fact so frequently reiterated by the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Life is a warfare." She had been instructed that there was one Sacrament above all others which makes the Christian soul a soldier of Christ. Consequently, she prepared herself with special earnestness for the reception of Confirmation. She was confirmed on June 14, 1884. How completely and permanently the Holy Ghost took possession of her soul is apparent from the words of her confessor, R. P. Pichon, at the Process of her Beatification: "It was easy to direct that child; the Holy Spirit led her, and I do not think that I ever had, either then or later on, to warn her against illusion."
The same Spirit which enlightened her, steeled her will and gave her courage to wage the combat which confronted her. "The good God has not willed that I should fight like a common soldier; I received at once a knights armour, and I set out to war against myself in the spiritual domain by renunciation and little hidden sacrifices. I have found peace and humility in this obscure combat where nature has no place."
This little lady knight did not find it necessary to search long for an opportunity to manifest her valor. Providence saw to it that she was early exercised in handling the shield of faith. Shortly after she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, she was tormented by scruples. Even the innocent act of tying her beautiful golden hair with "sky-blue" ribbons assumed the appearance of an ugly sin. At school, she constantly worried about the exclamations of admiration which were lavished upon her because of her sweet countenance, her beautiful hair, her excellent compositions. She fretted over the fact that these attentions might make shipwreck of her humility. The situation became all the more tense when, in the month of October, 1886, the thirteenth year of the Little Flowers life, her sister, Marie, went to join Pauline in the Carmelite Convent. To whom could she turn now for support? To whom could she confide her secrets? From whom could she expect aid in overcoming her dreadful scruples? Oh happy thought: She remembered from the pages of her tiny Catechism that the angels and saints in heaven are in constant communion with the faithful on earth.
She was certain that there were four little angels in heaven, who had her interests at heart. They were the four darling children of the Martin family, who had been transferred to the heavenly choir soon after their birth. God wanted them near His Throne and He had perfect right to have them there. What should prevent the Little Flower from invoking their special intercession at a time when she so sorely needed their assistance? In her childlike way, she challenged them to come to her rescue and to help her conquer her sensitiveness, which often manifested itself in floods of tears. She made use of no high-sounding words in addressing these infant-angels. "I told them that I was the youngest of the family, I had always been the most petted and loved by my parents and sisters, and that if they too had remained on earth they would no doubt have given me the same proofs of affection. I told them also that the fact of their being in Heaven was no reason why they should forget me. On the contrary, since they could draw from the treasury of Heaven, they ought to obtain for me the grace of peace, and so prove that in Paradise they loved me still."
The answer to this prayer came with almost lightning speed. It would seem that the four cherubs (two brothers and two sisters) surrounded the throne of the most High and pleaded that their sister on earth receive her request on that feast day which Angels love so much, that day of "peace on earth to men of good will."
God wrought the desired miracle on Christmas, December 25, 1886. The incident occurred in the following manner. Therese went to the midnight Mass with her father and sisters. She returned home with Jesus in her heart. She knew that she would find her shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents as in previous years. The gifts would afford her immeasurable joy, but her heart would be thrilled still more in seeing the enjoyment which her father derived as she "drew each fresh surprise from the magic shoes." But Providence designed that it should be otherwise on this particular Christmas. M. Martin, instead of manifesting his customary interest in this traditional event, showed that he was somewhat annoyed that a girl of her years should have such childish inclinations. As Therese went upstairs, she overheard these words from the lips of her father: "All this is far too~babyish for a big girl like Therese, and I hope this is the last time it will happen." Each of these words was a barbed arrow to the sensitive heart of the Little Flower. What should she do?
Celine counselled her: "Dont go down just yet, you would only cry if you looked at your presents before Papa."
For once Therese refused to take counsel. She dried her tears as best she could and ran down stairs to the chimney corner where her father was waiting. Over her scorched heart, she preserved a happy front. One by one she drew the presents out of the magic shoes, "looking all the time as happy as a queen. Papa joined in the laughter and there no longer appeared on his face the least sign of vexation.
The first tomb of the Little Flower in the cemetery of the Carmelites at Lisieux, France
Celine thought she must be dreaming, but happily it was a sweet reality, and Therese had once for all regained the strength of mind which had left her when she was four and a half."
The conquest recorded in the last paragraph might seem trivial to some who scan these lines. To Therese it was anything but insignificant. She refers to it as her "conversion," a climax in her life. "On this radiant night began the third period of my life, the most beautiful of all, the most filled with heavenly favors. Satisfied with my good-will, Our Lord accomplished in an instant the work I had not been able to do in years . . Thenceforth I was perfectly happy."
PRANZINI, THE MURDERER
SOMETIMES the whole trend of ones life will hinge upon some commonplace incident such as that which occurred in the Martin home on Christmas night, 1886. A happening equally as insignificant and yet equally as important for Therese took place on a Sunday early in the year 1887. As the Little Flower was closing her prayer-book at the end of Mass, "a picture of the crucifixion slipped partly out, showing one of the Divine Hands, pierced and bleeding." The little Saint tells us that an indescribable thrill passed through her, such as she had never before experienced. "My heart was torn with grief at the sight of the Precious Blood falling to the ground, with no one caring to treasure it as it fell. At once I resolved to remain continuously in spirit at the foot of the Cross, that I might receive the divine dew of salvation and pour it forth upon souls."
A high ambition! A girl of fourteen years makes herself custodian and in a certain sense, dispenser of the Precious Blood of the Savior! From the very day on which she made that noble resolution to linger ever at the foot of the Cross, she could hear the cry of her Dying Master, "I thirst," resounding incessantly in her heart.
Henceforth, it would be her sole desire to satisfy that thirst of her Lord, by snatching souls from the brink of hell and restoring them to the soul-thirsty Heart of the King of Kings. When He hung on Calvarys Cross, He complained not of loss of Blood, of piercing pain through torn tissues in hands and feet, of brutal crown of thorns. No! These tortures would He gladly suffer, if only countless souls would be bathed in His healing Blood and reborn into the Kingdom of Life.
And see! That this might be accomplished, He touches the heart of a little girl with a ray of His glowing love. Thereses heart becomes an image of the Divine Heart of Jesus. Her soul becomes inflamed with love for her fellow men throughout the world. Her heart becomes thirsty for the salvation of souls. This thirst is never to leave her, if she is to have her way, until the end of the world. Even in Heaven she will not rest until she is assured that earth is no more and that every last soul has been judged.
The sympathetic Heart of Christ gave Therese a beautiful token of His appreciation for her readiness to suffer and to thirst with Him.
A modern Barabbas by the name of Pranzini, was at that time detained in a prison in Paris. He had been condemned to death in punishment for the murder of two women and a girl in the Rue Montaigu of that city. The dreadful circumstances of the crime were the topic of conversation and the headlines of the newspapers throughout Paris. Pranzini was a hardened sinner and it appeared that all attempts to move him to repentance would be futile.
Here was Thereses chance. Save him from damnation she must, though she was but a weak child living at a distance of fifty leagues from the criminal and not even having the advantage of being acquainted with him. We can imagine how she stormed Heaven with the arrows of her most fervent prayers. We can picture her hurrying to her friends and neighbors, and pleading with them to unite with her in saving this unfortunate soul. To make sure her success, she offered "for the ransom of this unfortunate man the Infinite merits of Our Savior and the fruits of the Churchs treasury."
A word of explanation might be welcomed by non-Catholic readers of this book. It is a Catholic teaching that "one drop of the Precious Blood of Jesus was enough to save the world." But Jesus shed all of His Blood. Was some of it then wasted? No. The superabundant merit of Christs blood-shedding was stored away in a spiritual treasury from which the faithful of all subsequent ages might copiously draw. The same is true with regard to the superabundant merits of the saints. Let us take for example the merits of the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother Most Sorrowful. We are certain that Mary was never tainted with the least trace of sin. Yet she suffered more than any other woman before her or after her. Her merits could not be applied to her own soul because it was not in need of them. Were they wasted? No. They too were stored away, together with the superabundant merits of Christ and of all the saints, in what is known as the spiritual treasury of the Church.
Little Therese was convinced of the immeasurable value of this treasury. Accordingly, in her childlike trust, she asked God to draw from that spiritual fund, the graces that would be necessary to save Pranzini. Her simple faith led her further. She asked God for a sign that her prayers had been answered. Pranzini was, as she called him, her "first sinner." If God should grant her request, she would call him her "first-born," in the spiritual sense of the word.
For three months, the Little Flower continued her campaign of prayer. For three months, she watched the columns of the local paper to see whether anything had eventuated in favor of her unfortunate "brother."
On September 1, she read the following lines in the paper, La Croix: "At the opened door of the prison the assassin appeared with livid face. The chaplain places himself in front to hide from him the fatal machine; the assistants help him along; he repels both priest and executioners. He now stands before the guillotine. Deibler pushes him and throws him forward on to it. An assistant on the other side seizes hold of his head and draws it under the knife, holding it there by the hair.
"But before the final strokeit may be that a lightning-flash of repentance penetrated his consciencehe asked for the chaplains crucifix, and three times kissed it. And when the knife fell, when one of the assistants lifted up by one ear the separated head, we said to ourselves that if human justice is satisfied, perhaps too this last kiss will have satisfied Divine Justice which demands, above all, repentance."
It goes without saying that floods of consolation inundated the heart of the little missionary. She had won her first conquest and it was over the hardened heart of a criminal. In what better way could her Thirsting Jesus prove to her, that He was pleased with her "little way of confidence?"
HER CALL TO THE CLOISTERIT WAS ONLY NATURAL for Therese to argue that there must be countless other souls throughout this spacious world, who are in just as great need as was the condemned man of Paris. Abandoned slave boys, despairing lepers, dying soldiers, profligate men and women, weary missionaries, neglected orphans, starving paupers, apostates, heretics, infidelsher love knew no bounds. Wherever a human soul was encased within a human body, there did she wish to be, encouraging, supporting, saving the stricken one. How could she best accomplish her mission of mercy? That was a staggering question. Did God want her to become a foreign missionary and labor in distant lands under the most trying circumstances and without the consolation of her loved ones? Was it His design that she should play the part of the Good Samaritan, ministering to the sick and to the injured in one of the large hospitals of the world? Certain she was that her life was to be spent in bringing aid to needy souls. Less certain she was as to the exact mode of pursuing that program.
60 From early childhood, she had felt in her heart a special attraction towards the Carmelite Convent. This inclination became all the more pronounced, as she studied the life and the letters of St. John of the Cross. Somewhere in his writings, he gave expression to the thought: "The smallest movement of pure love is more useful to the Church than all works combined." Pure love would not permit her to consider her own advantage, but would aim directly at the greater honor and glory of God. Consequently, the more of her own likings she could renounce, and the less she became attached to the things of this world, the more perfectly would she be able to satisfy the pleading call of Christ from the Cross: "I thirst."
A major factor in determining her future career, was the reading of Abbe Arminjons Conferences on the End of the World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. That book seemed to add the "Amen" to the conclusions which she had carefully, though painfully, reached without the help of any human advice. She would enter Carmel and there labor for souls.
Therese was fully conscious that many obstacles crossed the path between her and the cloister. She was but fourteen years old. Who would ever listen to the unheard of idea of such a child entering the convent? "I found but one soul," she declares, "to encourage me in my vocation, that of my dear Pauline. My heart found in hers a faithful echo, and without her I would certainly never have arrived at the sacred shore which she had reached five years before."
Both the Mother Prioress and Thereses eldest sister, Marie, refused to listen to the little ones immature plans. However, she who had moved the hardened heart of a sinner on his way to the scaffold knew that she could also move the resolute hearts of these two nuns, if all other obstacles were cleared away. The Little Flowers chief concern was to break the news gently to her beloved father, her "King." M. Louis Martin was then sixty-four years of age. His health left much to be desired. He had suffered a slight attack of paralysis and had been stung by a poisonous fly, the sting causing a small excrescence on his neck which refused to be healed. Both of these maladies gave the little Queen reason to worry and to doubt whether he would be able to bear the pains which would result from his separation from her own dear self.
Having given the matter due consideration, the youngest daughter of the Martin family chose Pentecost as the day on which to make her "great disclosure" to her darling father. Child of the Holy Ghost that she was, she felt confident that the Holy Spirit would prepare her fathers heart for the stunning news. She thought it best to reveal her secret at an evening hour, when her father was sitting in the garden and admiring the wonders of nature. Her tear-filled eyes served as heralds to the important message which she was about to deliver. "What is it, my little Queen? Tell me..." Through her tears the future Saint spoke to him of her desire to enter Carmel. She pleaded her cause so cleverly and so simply, that the aged man soon yielded, but not without reminding her that she was very young to be deciding on such a grave matter. The conversation which followed and in which M. Martin was the
which followed and in which M. Martin was the chief speaker, took the form of some salutary advice and ended with the fathers blessing. Then, according to her own blessed words, "he showed me some little white flowers, like miniature lilies, which were growing on a low stone wall. Picking one, he gave it to me, and remarked with what loving care God had brought it to bloom and preserved it until that day."
This incident is so touching and so significant that the writer presumes to continue the quotation: "I thought I was listening to my own life story, so close was the resemblance between the little flower and little Therese. I received it as a relic, and I noticed that in trying to pluck the slender blossom, Papa had pulled it up by the roots; it seemed destined to live on, but in other and more fertile soil. He had just done the same thing for me, by permitting me to leave the sweet valley of my childhoods years for the mountain of Carmel. I fastened my little white flower to a picture of Our Lady of Victories, so that the Blessed Virgin smiles upon it and the Infant Jesus seems to hold it in His Hand. It is still there, but the stalk is now broken close to the root. No doubt God wishes me to understand by this that He will soon sever all the earthly ties of His Little Flower, and will not leave her to fade here below."
Thereses next step was to broach her secret to her uncle, whose advice she had learned to obtain in the more important affairs of her life. He said that he would oppose her early entrance to the convent in every possible way. Words were of no avail in inducing him to alter his attitude. Only by means of fervent prayers did she bring it about that, within four days, he was quite willing to permit her to follow the desires of her heart.
Another obstacle was found in the obstinacy of the Superior of Carmel, Canon Delatroette. He would not allow her to enter until she was twenty-one. An emphatic "No," was the answer to the request that Therese be permitted to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen. Of course, as he stated, there was still one authority to be approached, the Bishop of Bayeux. Should he grant the girls wishes, no one could object. This meant a trip to Bayeux, for the little one could not rest until she had the required permission. The Bishop treated Therese very kindly but gave her no satisfactory answer. In fact, thinking that he was pleasing the father of the tiny aspirant, told her that she ought to remain home some time longer. Thereupon, Louis Martin came to the aid of his daughter and stated that if the Bishop failed to grant the necessary permission, there was still a higher authority whose word would be final, the Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII. The matter was of sufficient importance to warrant a journey to Rome, where the "little Queen" could present her cause to the Father of all Christendom. As the disappointed pair, Therese and her father, left the Bishops residence, they heard a priest remark: "I have never yet seen such a thinga father as anxious to give his child to God as the child was to offer herself."
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