Chapter 9


Dear Mother, I thought I had written enough, and now you wish for more
details of my religious life. I will not argue, but I cannot help
smiling when I have to tell you things that you know quite as well as I
do. Nevertheless, I will obey. I do not ask what use this manuscript
can be to any one, I assure you that even were you to burn it before my
eyes, without having read it, I should not mind in the least.

The opinion is not uncommon in the Community that you have always
indulged me, ever since I entered the Convent; however, ”Man seeth
those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” [85] Dear
Mother, once again I thank you for not having spared me. Jesus knew
well that His Little Flower needed the life-giving water of
humiliation–it was too weak to take root otherwise, and to you it owes
so great a blessing. But for some months, the Divine Master has
entirely changed His method of cultivating His Little Flower. Finding
no doubt that it has been sufficiently watered, He now allows it to
expand under the warm rays of a brilliant sun. He smiles on it, and
this favour also comes through you, dear Mother, but far from doing it
harm, those smiles make the Little Flower grow in a wondrous way. Deep
down in its heart it treasures those precious drops of dew–the
mortifications of other days–and they remind it that it is small and
frail. Even were all creatures to draw near to admire and flatter it,
that would not add a shade of idle satisfaction to the true joy which
thrills it, on realising that in God’s Eyes it is but a poor, worthless
thing, and nothing more.

When I say that I am indifferent to praise, I am not speaking, dear
Mother, of the love and confidence you show me; on the contrary I am
deeply touched thereby, but I feel that I have now nothing to fear, and
I can listen to those praises unperturbed, attributing to God all that
is good in me. If it please Him to make me appear better than I am, it
is nothing to me, He can act as He will. My God, how many ways dost
Thou lead souls! We read of Saints who left absolutely nothing at their
death, not the least thing by which to remember them, not even a single
line of writing; and there are others like our holy Mother, St. Teresa,
who have enriched the Church with their sublime teaching, and have not
hesitated to reveal ”the secrets of the King,” [86] that He may be
better known and better loved.

Which of these two ways is more pleasing to Our Lord? It seems to me
that they are equally so.

All those beloved by God have followed the inspiration of the Holy
Ghost, who commanded the prophets to write: ”Tell the just man that all
is well.” [87] Yes, all is well when one seeks only the Master’s Will,
and so I, poor Little Flower, obey my Jesus when I try to please you,
who represent him here on earth.

You know it has ever been my desire to become a Saint, but I have
always felt, in comparing myself with the Saints, that I am as far
removed from them as the grain of sand, which the passer-by tramples
underfoot, is remote from the mountain whose summit is lost in the

Instead of being discouraged, I concluded that God would not inspire
desires which could not be realised, and that I may aspire to sanctity
in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must
bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means
of getting to Heaven by a little way–very short and very straight, a
little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions;
nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts
instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised
unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection.
I have sought to find in Holy Scripture some suggestion as to what this
lift might be which I so much desired, and I read these words uttered
by the Eternal Wisdom Itself: ”Whosoever is a little one, let him come
to Me.” [88] Then I drew near to God, feeling sure that I had
discovered what I sought; but wishing to know further what He would do
to the little one, I continued my search and this is what I found: ”You
shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees; as one whom the
mother caresseth, so will I comfort you.” [89]

Never have I been consoled by words more tender and sweet. Thine Arms,
then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To
get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I
must become still less. O my God, thou hast gone beyond my expectation,
and I . . . ”I will sing Thy mercies! Thou hast taught me, O Lord, from
my youth and till now I have declared Thy wonderful works, and thus
unto old age and grey hairs.” [90]

What will this old age be for me? It seems to me that it could as well
be now as later: two thousand years are no more in the Eyes of the Lord
than twenty years . . . than a single day! But do not think, dear
Mother, that your child is anxious to leave you, and deems it a greater
grace to die in the morning rather than in the evening of life; to
please Jesus is what [s]he really values and desires above all things.
Now that He seems to come near and draw her to His Heavenly Home, she
is glad; she has understood that God has need of no one to do good upon
earth, still less of her than of others. Meantime I know your will,
dear Mother. You wish me to carry out, at your side, a work which is
both sweet and easy, [91] and this work I shall complete in Heaven. You
have said to me, as Our Lord said to St. Peter: ”Feed my lambs.” I am
amazed, for I feel that I am so little. I have entreated you to feed
your little lambs yourself and to keep me among them. You have complied
in part with my reasonable wish, and have called me their companion,
rather than their mistress, telling me nevertheless to lead them
through fertile and shady pastures, to point out where the grass is
sweetest and best, and warn them against the brilliant but poisonous
flowers, which they must never touch except to crush under foot.

How is it, dear Mother, that my youth and inexperience have not
frightened you? Are you not afraid that I shall let your lambs stray
afar? In acting as you have done, perhaps you remembered that Our Lord
is often pleased to give wisdom to little ones.

On this earth it is rare indeed to find souls who do not measure God’s
Omnipotence by their own narrow thoughts. The world is always ready to
admit exceptions everywhere here below. God alone is denied this
liberty. It has long been the custom among men to reckon experience by
age, for in his youth the holy King David sang to His Lord: ”I am young
and despised,” [92] but in the same Psalm he does not fear to say: ”I
have had understanding above old men, because I have sought Thy
commandments, Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths; I
have sworn, and I am determined, to keep the judgments of Thy Justice.”

And you did not even consider it imprudent to assure me one day, that
the Divine Master had enlightened my soul and given me the experience
of years. I am too little now to be guilty of vanity; I am likewise too
little to endeavour to prove my humility by fine-sounding words. I
prefer to own in all simplicity that ”He that is mighty hath done great
things to me”– [94] and the greatest is that He has shown me my
littleness and how incapable I am of anything good.

My soul has known trials of many kinds. I have suffered much on this
earth. In my childhood I suffered with sadness, but now I find
sweetness in all things. Anyone but you, dear Mother, who know me
thoroughly, would smile at reading these pages, for has ever a soul
seemed less tried than mine? But if the martyrdom which I have endured
for the past year were made known, how astonished everyone would be!
Since it is your wish I will try to describe it, but there are no words
really to explain these things. The words will always fall short of the

During Lent last year I felt much better than ever and continued so
until Holy Week, in spite of the fast which I observed in all its
rigour. But in the early hours of Good Friday, Jesus gave me to hope
that I should soon join Him in His beautiful Home. How sweet is this

I could not obtain permission to remain watching at the Altar of Repose
throughout the Thursday night, and I returned to our cell at midnight.
Scarcely was my head laid on the pillow when I felt a hot stream rise
to my lips. I thought I was going to die, and my heart nearly broke
with joy. But as I had already put out our lamp, I mortified my
curiosity until the morning and slept in peace. At five o’clock, when
it was time to get up, I remembered at once that I had some good news
to learn, and going to the window I found, as I had expected, that our
handkerchief was soaked with blood. Dearest Mother, what hope was mine!
I was firmly convinced that on this anniversary of His Death, my
Beloved had allowed me to hear His first call, like a sweet, distant
murmur, heralding His joyful approach.

I assisted at Prime and Chapter most fervently, and then I hastened to
cast myself at my Mother’s knees and confide to her my happiness. I did
not feel the least pain, so I easily obtained permission to finish Lent
as I had begun, and on this Good Friday I shared in all the austerities
of the Carmel without any relaxation. Never had these austerities
seemed sweeter to me; the hope of soon entering Heaven transported me
with joy.

Still full of joy, I returned to our cell on the evening of that happy
day, and was quietly falling asleep, when my sweet Jesus gave me the
same sign as on the previous night, of my speedy entrance to Eternal
Life. I felt such a clear and lively Faith that the thought of Heaven
was my sole delight. I could not believe it possible for men to be
utterly devoid of Faith, and I was convinced that those who deny the
existence of another world really lie in their hearts.

But during the Paschal days, so full of light, our Lord made me
understand that there really are in truth souls bereft of Faith and
Hope, who, through abuse of grace, lose these precious treasures, the
only source of pure and lasting joy. He allowed my soul to be
overwhelmed with darkness, and the thought of Heaven, which had
consoled me from my earliest childhood, now became a subject of
conflict and torture. This trial did not last merely for days or weeks;
I have been suffering for months, and I still await deliverance. I wish
I could express what I feel, but it is beyond me. One must have passed
through this dark tunnel to understand its blackness. However, I will
try to explain it by means of a comparison.

Let me suppose that I had been born in a land of thick fogs, and had
never seen the beauties of nature, or a single ray of sunshine,
although I had heard of these wonders from my early youth, and knew
that the country wherein I dwelt was not my real home–there was
another land, unto which I should always look forward. Now this is not
a fable, invented by an inhabitant of the land of fogs, it is the
solemn truth, for the King of that sunlit country dwelt for three and
thirty years in the land of darkness, and alas!–the darkness did not
understand that He was the Light of the World. [95]

But, dear Lord, Thy child has understood Thou art the Light Divine; she
asks Thy pardon for her unbelieving brethren, and is willing to eat the
bread of sorrow as long as Thou mayest wish. For love of Thee she will
sit at that table of bitterness where these poor sinners take their
food, and she will not stir from it until Thou givest the sign. But may
she not say in her own name, and the name of her guilty brethren: ”O
God, be merciful to us sinners!” [96] Send us away justified. May all
those on whom Faith does not shine see the light at last! O my God, if
that table which they profane can be purified by one that loves Thee, I
am willing to remain there alone to eat the bread of tears, until it
shall please Thee to bring me to Thy Kingdom of Light: the only favour
I ask is, that I may never give Thee cause for offence.

From the time of my childhood I felt that one day I should be set free
from this land of darkness. I believed it, not only because I had been
told so by others, but my heart’s most secret and deepest longings
assured me that there was in store for me another and more beautiful
country–an abiding dwelling-place. I was like Christopher Columbus,
whose genius anticipated the discovery of the New World. And suddenly
the mists about me have penetrated my very soul and have enveloped me
so completely that I cannot even picture to myself this promised
country . . . all has faded away. When my heart, weary of the
surrounding darkness, tries to find some rest in the thought of a life
to come, my anguish increases. It seems to me that out of the darkness
I hear the mocking voice of the unbeliever: ”You dream of a land of
light and fragrance, you dream that the Creator of these wonders will
be yours for ever, you think one day to escape from these mists where
you now languish. Nay, rejoice in death, which will give you, not what
you hope for, but a night darker still, the night of utter
nothingness!” . . .

Dear Mother, this description of what I suffer is as far removed from
reality as the first rough outline is from the model, but I fear that
to write more were to blaspheme . . . even now I may have said too
much. May God forgive me! He knows that I try to live by Faith, though
it does not afford me the least consolation. I have made more acts of
Faith in this last year than during all the rest of my life.

Each time that my enemy would provoke me to combat, I behave as a
gallant soldier. I know that a duel is an act of cowardice, and so,
without once looking him in the face, I turn my back on the foe, then I
hasten to my Saviour, and vow that I am ready to shed my blood in
witness of my belief in Heaven. I tell him, if only He will deign to
open it to poor unbelievers, I am content to sacrifice all pleasure in
the thought of it as long as I live. And in spite of this trial, which
robs me of all comfort, I still can say: ”Thou hast given me, O Lord,
delight in all Thou dost.” [97] For what joy can be greater than to
suffer for Thy Love? The more the suffering is and the less it appears
before men, the more is it to Thy Honour and Glory. Even if–but I know
it to be impossible–Thou shouldst not deign to heed my sufferings, I
should still be happy to bear them, in the hope that by my tears I
might perhaps prevent or atone for one sin against Faith.

No doubt, dear Mother, you will think I exaggerate somewhat the night
of my soul. If you judge by the poems I have composed this year, it
must seem as though I have been flooded with consolations, like a child
for whom the veil of Faith is almost rent asunder. And yet it is not a
veil–it is a wall which rises to the very heavens and shuts out the
starry sky.

When I sing of the happiness of Heaven and the eternal possession of
God, I do not feel any joy therein, for I sing only of what I wish to
believe. Sometimes, I confess, a little ray of sunshine illumines my
dark night, and I enjoy peace for an instant, but later, the
remembrance of this ray of light, instead of consoling me, makes the
blackness thicker still.

And yet never have I felt so deeply how sweet and merciful is the Lord.
He did not send me this heavy cross when it might have discouraged me,
but at a time when I was able to bear it. Now it simply takes from me
all natural satisfaction I might feel in my longing for Heaven.

Dear Mother, it seems to me that at present there is nothing to impede
my upward flight, for I have no longer any desire save to love Him till
I die. I am free; I fear nothing now, not even what I dreaded more than
anything else, a long illness which would make me a burden to the
Community. Should it please the Good God, I am quite content to have my
bodily and mental sufferings prolonged for years. I do not fear a long
life; I do not shrink from the struggle. The Lord is the rock upon
which I stand–”Who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.
He is my Protector and I have hoped in Him.” [98] I have never asked
God to let me die young, It is true I have always thought I should do
so, but it is a favour I have not tried to obtain.

Our Lord is often content with the wish to do something for His Glory,
and you know the immensity of my desires. You know also that Jesus has
offered me more than one bitter chalice through my dearly loved
sisters. The holy King David was right when he sang: ”Behold how good
and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” [99]
But such unity can only exist upon earth in the midst of sacrifice. It
was not in order to be with my sisters that I came to this holy Carmel;
on the contrary, I knew well that in curbing my natural affection I
should have much to suffer.

How can it be said that it is more perfect to separate oneself from
home and friends? Has anyone ever reproached brothers who fight side by
side, or together win the martyr’s palm? It is true, no doubt, they
encourage each other; but it is also true that the martyrdom of each is
a martyrdom to them all.

And so it is in the religious life; theologians call it a martyrdom. A
heart given to God loses nothing of its natural affection–on the
contrary, this affection grows stronger by becoming purer and more
spiritual. It is with this love, dear Mother, that I love you and my
sisters. I am glad to fight beside you for the glory of the King of
Heaven, but I am ready to go to another battlefield, did the Divine
Commander but express a wish. An order would not be necessary: a simple
look, a sign, would suffice.

Ever since I came to the Carmel I have thought that if Our Lord did not
take me quickly to Heaven, my lot would be that of Noe’s dove, and that
one day he would open the window of the Ark and bid me fly to heathen
lands, bearing the olive branch. This thought has helped me to soar
above all created things.

Knowing that even in the Carmel there must be partings, I tried to make
my abode in Heaven; and I accepted not only exile in the midst of an
unknown people, but what was far more bitter, I accepted exile for my
sisters. And indeed, two of them were asked for by the Carmel of
Saigon, our own foundation. For a time there was serious question of
their being sent, and I would not say a word to hold them back, though
my heart ached at the thought of the trials awaiting them. Now all that
is at an end; the superiors were absolutely opposed to their departure,
and I only touched the cup with my lips long enough to taste of its

Let me tell you, dear Mother, why, if Our Lady cures me, I wish to
respond to the call from our Mothers of Hanoi. It appears that to live
in foreign Carmels, a very special vocation is needed, and many souls
think they are called without being so in reality. You have told me
that I have this vocation, and that my health alone stands in the way.
But if I am destined one day to leave this Carmel, it will not be
without a pang. My heart is naturally sensitive, and because this is a
cause of much suffering, I wish to offer Jesus whatsoever it can bear.
Here, I am loved by you and all the Sisters, and this love is very
sweet to me, and I dream of a convent where I should be unknown, where
I should taste the bitterness of exile. I know only too well how
useless I am, and so it is not for the sake of the services I might
render to the Carmel of Hanoi that I would leave all that is dearest to
me–my sole reason would be to do God’s Will, and sacrifice myself for

And I should not suffer any disappointment, for when we expect nothing
but suffering, then the least joy is a surprise; and later on suffering
itself becomes the greatest of all joys, when we seek it as a precious

But I know I shall never recover from this sickness, and yet I am at
peace. For years I have not belonged to myself, I have surrendered
myself wholly to Jesus, and He is free to do with me whatsoever He
pleases. He has spoken to me of exile, and has asked me if I would
consent to drink of that chalice. At once I essayed to grasp it, but
He, withdrawing His Hand, showed me that my consent was all He desired.

O my God! from how much disquiet do we free ourselves by the vow of
obedience! Happy is the simple religious. Her one guide being the will
of her superiors, she is ever sure of following the right path, and has
no fear of being mistaken, even when it seems that her superiors are
making a mistake. But if she ceases to consult the unerring compass,
then at once her soul goes astray in barren wastes, where the waters of
grace quickly fail. Dear Mother, you are the compass Jesus has given me
to direct me safely to the Eternal Shore. I find it most sweet to fix
my eyes upon you, and then do the Will of my Lord. By allowing me to
suffer these temptations against Faith, He has greatly increased the
spirit of Faith, which makes me see Him living in your soul, and
through you communicating His holy commands.

I am well aware that you lighten the burden of obedience for me, but
deep in my heart I feel that my attitude would not change, nor would my
filial affection grow less, were you to treat me with severity: and
this because I should still see the Will of God manifesting itself in
another way for the greater good of my soul.

Among the numberless graces that I have received this year, not the
least is an understanding of how far-reaching is the precept of
charity. I had never before fathomed these words of Our Lord: ”The
second commandment is like to the first: Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself.” [100] I had set myself above all to love God, and it was
in loving Him that I discovered the hidden meaning of these other
words: ”It is not those who say, Lord, Lord! who enter into the Kingdom
of Heaven, but he who does the Will of My Father.” [101]

Jesus revealed me this Will when at the Last Supper He gave His New
Commandment in telling His Apostles to love one another as He had loved
them. [102] I set myself to find out how He had loved His Apostles; and
I saw that it was not for their natural qualities, for they were
ignorant men, full of earthly ideas. And yet He calls them His Friends,
His Brethren; He desires to see them near Him in the Kingdom of His
Father, and in order to admit them to this Kingdom He wills to die on
the Cross, saying: ”Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay
down his life for his friends.” [103]

As I meditated on these Divine words, I saw how imperfect was the love
I bore my Sisters in religion. I understood that I did not love tem as
Our Lord loves them. I know now that true charity consists in bearing
all our neighbours’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but
edified at their smallest virtues. Above all I know that charity must
not remain shut up in the heart, for ”No man lighteth a candle, and
putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel; but upon a
candlestick, that they who come in may see the light.” [104]

It seems to me, dear Mother, this candle represents that charity which
enlightens and gladdens, not only those who are dear to us, but all
those who are of the household.

In the Old Law, when God told His people to love their neighbour as
themselves, He had not yet come down upon earth; and knowing full well
how man loves himself, He could not ask anything greater. But when Our
Lord gave His Apostles a New Commandment–”His own commandment” [105]
–He was not content with saying: ”Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself,” but would have them love even as He had loved, and as He will
love till the end of time.

O my Jesus! Thou does never ask what is impossible; Thou knowest better
than I, how frail and imperfect I am, and Thou knowest that I shall
never love my Sisters as Thou hast loved them, unless within me Thou
lovest them, dear Lord! It is because Thou dost desire to grant me this
grace that Thou hast given a New Commandment. Oh how I love it, since I
am assured thereby that it is Thy Will to love in me all those Thou
dost bid me love!

Yes, I know when I show charity to others, it is simply Jesus acting in
me, and the more closely I am united to Him, the more dearly I love my
Sisters. If I wish to increase this love in my heart, and the devil
tries to bring before me the defects of a Sister, I hasten to look for
her virtues, her good motives; I call to mind that though I may have
seen her fall once, no doubt she has gained many victories over
herself, which in her humility she conceals. It is even possible that
what seems to me a fault, may very likely, on account of her good
intention, be an act of virtue. I have no difficulty in persuading
myself of this, because I have had the same experience. One day, during
recreation, the portress came to ask for a Sister to help her. I had a
childish longing to do this work, and it happened the choice fell upon
me. I therefore began to fold up our needlework, but so slowly that my
neighbour, who I knew would like to take my place, was ready before me.
The Sister who had asked for help, seeing how deliberate I was, said
laughingly: ”I thought you would not add this pearl to your crown, you
are so extremely slow,” and all the Community thought I had yielded to
natural reluctance. I cannot tell you what profit I derived from this
incident, and it made me indulgent towards others. It still checks any
feelings of vanity, when I am praised, for I reflect that since my
small acts of virtue can be mistaken for imperfections, why should not
my imperfections be mistaken for virtue? And I say with St. Paul: ”To
me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day. But
neither do I judge myself. He that judgeth me is the Lord.” [106]

And it is the Lord, it is Jesus, Who is my judge. Therefore I will try
always to think leniently of others, that He may judge me leniently, or
rather not at all, since He says: ”Judge not, and ye shall not be
judged.” [107]

But returning to the Holy Gospel where Our Lord explains to me clearly
in what His New Commandment consists, I read in St. Matthew: ”You have
heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate
thy enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them
that persecute you.” [108]

There are, of course, no enemies in the Carmel; but, after all, we have
our natural likes and dislikes. We may feel drawn towards one Sister,
and may be tempted to go a long way round to avoid meeting another.
Well, Our Lord tells me that this is the Sister to love and pray for,
even though her behaviour may make me imagine she does not care for me.
”If you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? For sinners
also love those that love them.” [109] And it is not enough to love, we
must prove our love; naturally one likes to please a friend, but that
is not charity, for sinners do the same.

Our Lord also taught me: ”Give to everyone that asketh thee; and of him
that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again.” [110] To give to
everyone who asks is not so pleasant as to give of one’s own accord. If
we are asked pleasantly, it is easy to give; but if we are asked
discourteously, then, unless we are perfect in charity, there is an
inward rebellion, and we find no end of excuses for refusing. Perhaps,
after first pointing out the rudeness of the request, we make such a
favour of consenting thereto, that the slight service takes far less
time to perform than was lost in arguing the point. And if it is
difficult to give to whosoever asks, it is far more difficult to let
what belongs to us be taken without asking it again. Dear Mother, I say
this is hard, but I should rather say that it seems hard, for ”The yoke
of the Lord is sweet and His burden light.” [111] And when we submit to
that yoke, we at once feel its sweetness.

I have said Jesus does not wish me to ask again for what is my own.
This ought to seem quite easy, for, in reality, nothing is mine. I
ought, then, to be glad when an occasion arises which brings home to me
the poverty to which I am vowed. I used to think myself completely
detached, but since Our Lord’s words have become clear, I see that I am
indeed very imperfect.

For instance: when starting to paint, if I find the brushes in
disorder, and a ruler or penknife gone, I feel inclined to lose
patience, and have to keep a firm hold over myself not to betray my
feelings. Of course I may ask for these needful things, and if I do so
humbly I am not disobeying Our Lord’s command. I am then like the poor
who hold out their hands for the necessaries of life, and, if refused,
are not surprised, since no one owes them anything. Deep peace
inundates the soul when it soars above mere natural sentiments. There
is no joy equal to that which is shared by the truly poor in spirit. If
they ask with detachment for something necessary, and not only is it
refused, but an attempt is made to take away what they already possess,
they are following the Master’s advice: ”If any man will take away thy
coat, let him have thy cloak also.” [112] To give up one’s cloak is, it
seems to me, to renounce every right, and to regard oneself as the
servant, the slave, of all. Without a cloak it is easier to walk or
run, and so the Master adds: ”And whosoever shall force thee to go one
mile, go with him other two.” [113]

It is therefore not enough for me to give to whoever asks–I ought to
anticipate the wish, and show myself glad to be of service; but if
anything of mine be taken away, I should show myself glad to be rid of
it. I cannot always carry out to the letter the words of the Gospel,
for there are occasions when I am compelled to refuse some request. Yet
when charity is deeply rooted in the soul it lets itself be outwardly
seen, and there is a way of refusing so graciously what one is unable
to give, that the refusal affords as much pleasure as the gift would
have done. It is true that people do not hesitate to ask from those who
readily oblige, nevertheless I ought not to avoid importunate Sisters
on the pretext that I shall be forced to refuse. The Divine Master has
said: ”From him that would borrow of thee turn not away.” [114] Nor
should I be kind in order to appear so, or in the hope that the Sister
will return the service, for once more it is written: ”If you lend to
them of whom you hope to receive, what thanks are to you? For sinners
also lend to sinners for to receive as much. But you do good and lend,
hoping for nothing thereby, and your reward shall be great.” [115]

Verily, the reward is great even on earth. In this path it is only the
first step which costs. To lend without hope of being repaid seems
hard; one would rather give outright, for what you give is no longer
yours. When a Sister says confidently: ”I want your help for some
hours–I have our Mother’s leave, and be assured I will do as much for
you later,” one may know well that these hours lent will not be repaid,
and be sorely tempted to say: ”I prefer to give them.” But that would
gratify self-love, besides letting the Sister feel that you do not rely
much on her promise. The Divine precepts run contrary to our natural
inclinations, and without the help of grace it would be impossible to
understand them, far less to put them in practice.

Dear Mother, I feel that I have expressed myself with more than usual
confusion, and I do not know what you can find to interest you in these
rambling pages, but I am not aiming at a literary masterpiece, and if I
weary you by this discourse on charity, it will at least prove your
child’s good will. I must confess I am far from living up to my ideal,
and yet the very desire to do so gives me a feeling of peace. If I fall
into some fault, I arise again at once–and for some months now I have
not even had to struggle. I have been able to say with our holy Father,
St. John of the Cross: ”My house is entirely at peace,” and I attribute
this interior peace to a victory I gained over myself. Since that
victory, the hosts of Heaven have hastened to my aid, for they will not
allow me to be wounded, now that I have fought so valiantly.

A holy nun of our community annoyed me in all that she did; the devil
must have had something to do with it, and he it was undoubtedly who
made me see in her so many disagreeable points. I did not want to yield
to my natural antipathy, for I remembered that charity ought to betray
itself in deeds, and not exist merely in the feelings, so I set myself
to do for this sister all I should do for the one I loved most. Every
time I met her I prayed for her, and offered to God her virtues and
merits. I felt that this was very pleasing to Our Lord, for there is no
artist who is not gratified when his works are praised, and the Divine
Artist of souls is pleased when we do not stop at the exterior, but,
penetrating to the inner sanctuary He has chosen, admire its beauty.

I did not rest satisfied with praying for this Sister, who gave me such
occasions for self-mastery, I tried to render her as many services as I
could, and when tempted to answer her sharply, I made haste to smile
and change the subject, for the Imitation says: ”It is more profitable
to leave everyone to his way of thinking than to give way to
contentious discourses.” And sometimes when the temptation was very
severe, I would run like a deserter from the battlefield if I could do
so without letting the Sister guess my inward struggle.

One day she said to me with a beaming face: ”My dear Soeur Therese,
tell me what attraction you find in me, for whenever we meet, you greet
me with such a sweet smile.” Ah! What attracted me was Jesus hidden in
the depths of her soul–Jesus who maketh sweet even that which is most

I spoke just now, dear Mother, of the flight that is my last resource
to escape defeat. It is not honourable, I confess, but during my
noviciate, whenever I had recourse to this means, it invariably
succeeded. I will give you a striking example, which will, I am sure,
amuse you. You had been ill with bronchitis for several days, and we
were all uneasy about you. One morning, in my duty as sacristan, I came
to put back the keys of the Communion-grating. This was my work, and I
was very pleased to have an opportunity of seeing you, though I took
good care not to show it. One of the Sisters, full of solicitude,
feared I should awake you, and tried to take the keys from me. I told
her as politely as I could, that I was quite as anxious as she was
there should be no noise, and added that it was my right to return
them. I see now that it would have been more perfect simply to yield,
but I did not see it then, and so I followed her into the room. Very
soon what she feared came to pass: the noise did awaken you. All the
blame fell upon me; the Sister I had argued with began a long
discourse, of which the point was: Soeur Therese made all the noise. I
was burning to defend myself, but a happy inspiration of grace came to
me. I thought that if I began to justify myself I should certainly lose
my peace of mind, and as I had too little virtue to let myself be
unjustly accused without answering, my last chance of safety lay in
flight. No sooner thought than done. I hurried away, but my heart beat
so violently, I could not go far, and I was obliged to sit down on the
stairs to enjoy in quiet the fruit of my victory. This is an odd kind
of courage, undoubtedly, but I think it is best not to expose oneself
in the face of certain defeat.

When I recall these days of my noviciate I understand how far I was
from perfection, and the memory of certain things makes me laugh. How
good God has been, to have trained my soul and given it wings All the
snares of the hunter can no longer frighten me, for ”A net is spread in
vain before the eyes of them that have wings.” [116]

It may be that some day my present state will appear to me full of
defects, but nothing now surprises me, and I do not even distress
myself because I am so weak. On the contrary I glory therein, and
expect each day to find fresh imperfections. Nay, I must confess, these
lights on my own nothingness are of more good to my soul than lights on
matters of Faith. Remembering that ”Charity covereth a multitude of
sins,” [117] I draw from this rich mine, which Our Saviour has opened
to us in the Gospels. I search the depths of His adorable words, and
cry out with david: ”I have run in the way of Thy commandments since
Thou hast enlarged my heart.” [118] And charity alone can make wide the
heart. O Jesus! Since its sweet flame consumes my heart, I run with
delight in the way of Thy New Commandment, and I desire to run therein
until that blessed day when, with Thy company of Virgins, I shall
follow Thee through Thy boundless Realm, singing Thy New Canticle–The
Canticle of Love.

[85] 1 Kings 16:7.

[86] Tobias 12:7.

[87] Cf. Isaias 3:10.

[88] Prov. 9:4.

[89] Isa. 66:12, 13.

[90] Cf. Ps. 70[71]:17, 18.

[91] Soeur Therese had charge of the novices without being given the
title of Novice Mistress.

[92] Ps. 118[119]:141.

[93] Ps. 118[119]:100, 105, 106.

[94] Luke 1:49.

[95] Cf. John 1:5.

[96] Cf. Luke 18:13.

[97] Ps. 91[92]:5.

[98] Ps. 143[144]:1, 2.

[99] Ps. 132[133]:1.

[100] Matt. 22:39.

[101] Cf. Matt. 7:21.

[102] Cf. John 13:34.

[103] John 15:12.

[104] Luke 11:33.

[105] John 15:12.

[106] 1 Cor. 4:3,4.

[107] Luke 6:37.

[108] Matt. 5:43, 44.

[109] Luke 6:32.

[110] Luke 6:30.

[111] Matt. 11:30.

[112] Matt. 5:40.

[113] Matt. 5:41.

[114] Matt. 5:42.

[115] Luke 6:34, 35.

[116] Prov. 1:27.

[117] Prov. 10:12.

[118] Ps. 118[119]:32.