Epilogue

EPILOGUE: A VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE

”Many pages of this story”–said its writer–”will never be read upon
earth.” It is necessary to repeat and emphasize her words. There are
sufferings which are not to be disclosed here below; Our Lord has
jealously reserved to Himself the right to reveal their merit and
glory, in the clear vision where all veils shall be removed. ”My God,”
she cried on the day of her religious profession, ”give me martyrdom of
soul or body . . . or rather give me both the one and the other!” And
Our Lord Who, as she herself avowed, fulfilled all her desires, granted
this one also, and in more abundant measure than the rest. He caused
”the floods of infinite tenderness pent up in His Divine Heart to
overflow into the soul of His little Spouse.” This was the ”Martyrdom
of Love,” so well described in her melodious song. But it was her own
doctrine that, ”to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be
dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all
that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice . . .
and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must
surrender ourselves to suffering.”

Therefore, because she desired to attain ”the loftiest height of Love,”
the Divine Master led her thither by the rugged path of sorrow, and it
was only on its bleak summit that she died a Victim of Love.

. . . . . .

We have seen how great was her sacrifice in leaving her happy home and
the Father who loved her so tenderly. It may be imagined that this
sacrifice was softened, because at the Carmel she found again her two
elder and dearly loved sisters. On the contrary, this afforded the
young postulant many an occasion for repressing her strong natural
affections. The rules of solitude and silence were strictly observed,
and she only saw her sisters at recreation. Had she been less
mortified, she might often have sat beside them, but ”by preference she
sought out the company of those religious who were least agreeable to
her,” and no one could tell whether or not she bore a special affection
towards her own sisters.

Some time after her entrance, she was appointed as ”aid” to Sister
Agnes of Jesus, her dear ”Pauline”; this was a fresh occasion for
sacrifice. Therese knew that all unnecessary conversation was
forbidden, and therefore she never allowed herself even the least word.
”O my little Mother,” she said later, ”how I suffered! I could not open
my heart to you, and I thought you no longer knew me!”

After five years of this heroic silence, Sister Agnes of Jesus was
elected Prioress. On the evening of the election Therese might well
have rejoiced that henceforth she could speak freely to her ”little
Mother,” and, as of old, pour out her soul. But sacrifice had become
her daily food. If she sought one favour more than another, it was that
she might be looked on as the lowest and the least; and, among all the
religious, not one saw less of the Mother Prioress.

She desired to live the life of Carmel with all the perfection required
by St. Teresa, and, although a martyr to habitual dryness, her prayer
was continuous. On one occasion a novice, entering her cell, was struck
by the heavenly expression of her countenance. She was sewing
industriously, and yet seemed lost in deep contemplation. ”What are you
thinking of?” the young Sister asked. ”I am meditating on the ‘Our
Father,'” Therese answered. ”It is so sweet to call God, ‘Our Father!'”
. . . and tears glistened in her eyes. Another time she said, ”I cannot
well see what more I shall have in Heaven than I have now; I shall see
God, it is true, but, as to being with Him, I am that already even on
earth.”

The flame of Divine Love consumed her, and this is what she herself
relates: ”A few days after the oblation of myself to God’s Merciful
Love, I was in the choir, beginning the Way of the Cross, when I felt
myself suddenly wounded by a dart of fire so ardent that I thought I
should die. I do not know how to explain this transport; there is no
comparison to describe the intensity of that flame. It seemed as though
an invisible force plunged me wholly into fire. . . . But oh! what
fire! what sweetness!”

When Mother Prioress asked her if this rapture was the first she had
experienced, she answered simply: ”Dear Mother, I have had several
transports of love, and one in particular during my Noviciate, when I
remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as
though a veil were thrown over all earthly things. But, I was not then
consumed by a real fire. I was able to bear those transports of love
without expecting to see the ties that bound me to earth give way;
whilst, on the day of which I now speak, one minute–one second–more
and my soul must have been set free. Alas! I found myself again on
earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.” True, the Divine Hand
had withdrawn the fiery dart–but the wound was unto death!

In that close union with God, Therese acquired a remarkable mastery
over self. All sweet virtues flourished in the garden of her soul, but
do not let us imagine that these wondrous flowers grew without effort
on her part.

”In this world there is no fruitfulness without suffering–either
physical pain, secret sorrow, or trials known sometimes only to God.
When good thoughts and generous resolutions have sprung up in our souls
through reading the lives of the Saints, we ought not to content
ourselves, as in the case of profane books, with paying a certain
tribute of admiration to the genius of their authors–we should rather
consider the price which, doubtless, they have paid for that
supernatural good they have produced.” [150]

And, if to-day Therese transforms so many hearts, and the good she does
on earth is beyond reckoning, we may well believe she bought it all at
the price with which Jesus bought back our souls: by suffering and the
Cross!

Not the least of these sufferings was the unceasing war she waged
against herself, refusing every satisfaction to the demands of her
naturally proud and impetuous nature. While still a child she had
acquired the habit of never excusing herself or making a complaint; at
the Carmel she strove to be the little servant of her Sisters in
religion, and in that same spirit of humility she endeavoured to obey
all without distinction.

One evening, during her illness, the Community had assembled in the
garden to sing a hymn before an Altar of the Sacred Heart. Soeur
Therese, who was already wasted by fever, joined them with difficulty,
and, arriving quite exhausted, was obliged to sit down at once. When
the hymn began, one of the Sisters made her a sign to stand up. Without
hesitation, the humble child rose, and, in spite of the fever and great
oppression from which she was suffering, remained standing to the end.

The Infirmarian had advised her to take a little walk in the garden for
a quarter of an hour each day. This recommendation was for her a
command. One afternoon a Sister, noticing what an effort it cost her,
said: ”Soeur Therese, you would do much better to rest; walking like
this cannot do you any good. You only tire yourself!” ”That is true,”
she replied, ”but, do you know what gives me strength? I offer each
step for some missionary. I think that possibly, over there, far away,
one of them is weary and tired in his apostolic labours, and to lessen
his fatigue I offer mine to the Good God.”

She gave her novices some beautiful examples of detachment. One year
the relations of the Sisters and the servants of the Convent had sent
bouquets of flowers for Mother Prioress’s feast. Therese was arranging
them most tastefully, when a Lay-sister said crossly: ”It is easy to
see that the large bouquets have been given by your friends. I suppose
those sent by the poor will again be put in the background!” . . . A
sweet smile was the only reply, and notwithstanding the unpleasing
effect, she immediately put the flowers sent by the servants in the
most conspicuous place.

Struck with admiration, the Lay-sister went at once to the Prioress to
accuse herself of her unkindness, and to praise the patience and
humility shown by Soeur Therese.

After the death of Therese that same Sister, full of confidence,
pressed her forehead against the feet of the saintly nun, once more
asking forgiveness for her fault. At the same instant she felt herself
cured of cerebral anaemia, from which she had suffered for many years,
and which had prevented her from applying herself either to reading or
mental prayer.

Far from avoiding humiliations, Soeur Therese sought them eagerly, and
for that reason she offered herself as ”aid” to a Sister who, she well
knew, was difficult to please, and her generous proposal was accepted.
One day, when she had suffered much from this Sister, a novice asked
her why she looked so happy. Great was her surprise on receiving the
reply: ”It is because Sister N. has just been saying disagreeable
things to me. What pleasure she has given me! I wish I could meet her
now, and give her a sweet smile.” . . . As she was still speaking, the
Sister in question knocked at the door, and the astonished novice could
see for herself how the Saints forgive. Soeur Therese acknowledged
later on, she ”soared so high above earthly things that humiliations
did but make her stronger.”

To all these virtues she joined a wonderful courage. From her entrance
into the Carmel, at the age of fifteen, she was allowed to follow all
the practices of its austere Rule, the fasts alone excepted. Sometimes
her companions in the noviciate, seeing how pale she looked, tried to
obtain a dispensation for her, either from the Night Office, or from
rising at the usual hour in the morning, but the Mother Prioress would
never yield to these requests. ”A soul of such mettle,” she would say,
”ought not to be dealt with as a child; dispensations are not meant for
her. Let her be, for God sustains her. Besides, if she is really ill,
she should come and tell me herself.” [151]

But it was always a principle with Therese that ”We should go to the
end of our strength before we complain.” How many times did she assist
at Matins suffering from vertigo or violent headaches! ”I am able to
walk,” she would say, ”and so I ought to be at my duty.” And, thanks to
this undaunted energy, she performed acts that were heroic.

It was with difficulty that her delicate stomach accustomed itself to
the frugal fare of the Carmel. Certain things made her ill, but she
knew so well how to hide this, that no one ever suspected it. Her
neighbour at table said that she had tried in vain to discover the
dishes that she preferred, and the kitchen Sisters, finding her so easy
to please, invariably served her with what was left. It was only during
her last illness, when she was ordered to say what disagreed with her,
that her mortifications came to light. ”When Jesus wishes us to
suffer,” she said at that time, ”there can be no evading it. And so,
when Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart [152] was procuratrix, she
endeavoured to look after me with a mother’s tenderness. To all
appearances, I was well cared for, and yet what mortifications did she
not impose upon me! for she served me according to her own taste, which
was entirely opposed to mine.”

Therese’s spirit of sacrifice was far-reaching; she eagerly sought what
was painful and disagreeable, as her rightful share. All that God asked
she gave Him without hesitation or reserve.

”During my postulancy,” she said, ”it cost me a great deal to perform
certain exterior penances, customary in our convents, but I never
yielded to these repugnances; it seemed to me that the image of my
Crucified Lord looked at me with beseeching eyes, and begged these
sacrifices.”

Her vigilance was so keen, that she never left unobserved any little
recommendations of the Mother Prioress, or any of the small rules which
render the religious life so meritorious. One of the old nuns, having
remarked her extraordinary fidelity on this point, ever afterwards
regarded her as a Saint. Soeur Therese was accustomed to say that she
never did any great penances. That was because her fervour counted as
nothing the few that were allowed her. It happened, however, that she
fell ill through wearing for too long a time a small iron Cross,
studded with sharp points, that pressed into her flesh. ”Such a trifle
would not have caused this,” she said afterwards, ”if God had not
wished thus to make me understand that the greater austerities of the
Saints are not meant for me–nor for the souls that walk in the path of
‘spiritual childhood.'”

. . . . . .

”The souls that are the most dear to My Father,” Our Lord once said to
Saint Teresa, ”are those He tries the most, and the greatness of their
trials is the measure of His Love.” Therese was a soul most dear to
God, and He was about to fill up the measure of His Love by making her
pass through a veritable martyrdom. The reader will remember the call
on Good Friday, April 3, 1896, when, to use her own expression, she
heard the ”distant murmur which announced the approach of the
Bridegroom”; but she had still to endure long months of pain before the
blessed hour of her deliverance.

On the morning of that Good Friday, she made so little of the
haemorrhage of the previous night, that Mother Prioress allowed her to
practise all the penances prescribed by the Rule for that day. In the
afternoon, a novice saw her cleaning windows. Her face was livid, and,
in spite of her great energy, it was evident that her strength was
almost spent. Seeing her fatigue, the novice, who loved her dearly,
burst into tears, and begged leave to obtain her some little reprieve.
But the young novice-mistress strictly forbade her, saying that she was
quite able to bear this slight fatigue on the day on which Jesus had
suffered and died.

Soon a persistent cough made the Mother Prioress feel anxious; she
ordered Soeur Therese a more strengthening diet, and the cough ceased
for some time. ”Truly sickness is too slow a liberator,” exclaimed our
dear little Sister, ”I can only rely upon Love.”

She was strongly tempted to respond to the appeal of the Carmelites of
Hanoi, who much desired to have her, and began a novena to the
Venerable Theophane Venard [153] to obtain her cure, but alas! that
novena proved but the beginning of a more serious phase of her malady.

Like her Divine Master, she passed through the world doing good; like
Him, she had been forgotten and unknown, and now, still following in
His Footsteps, she was to climb the hill of Calvary. Accustomed to see
her always suffering, yet always joyous and brave, Mother Prioress,
doubtless inspired by God, allowed her to take part in the Community
exercises, some of which tired her extremely. At night, she would
courageously mount the stairs alone, pausing at each step to take
breath. It was with difficulty that she reached her cell, and then in
so exhausted a state, that sometimes, as she avowed later, it took her
quite an hour to undress. After all this exertion it was upon a hard
pallet that she took her rest. Her nights, too, were very bad, and when
asked if she would not like someone to be near her in her hours of
pain, she replied: ”Oh, no! on the contrary, I am only too glad to be
in a cell away from my Sisters, that I may not be heard. I am content
to suffer alone–as soon as I am pitied and loaded with attentions, my
happiness leaves me.”

What strength of soul these words betray! Where we find sorrow she
found joy. What to us is to hard to bear–being overlooked and ignored
by creatures–became to her a source of delight. And her Divine Spouse
knew well how to provide that bitter joy she found so sweet. Painful
remedies had often to be applied. One day, when she had suffered from
them more than usual, she was resting in her cell during recreation,
and overheard a Sister in the kitchen speaking of her thus: ”Soeur
Therese will not live long, and really sometimes I wonder what our
Mother Prioress will find to say about her when she dies. [154] She
will be sorely puzzled, for this little Sister, amiable as she is, has
certainly never done anything worth speaking about.” The Infirmarian,
who had also overheard the remark, turned to Therese and said: ”If you
relied upon the opinion of creatures you would indeed be disillusioned
today.” ”The opinion of creatures!” she replied; ”happily God has given
me the grace to be absolutely indifferent to that. Let me tell you
something which showed me, once and for all, how much it is worth. A
few days after my Clothing, I went to our dear Mother’s room, and one
of the Sisters who happened to be there, said on seeing me: ‘Dear
Mother, this novice certainly does you credit. How well she looks! I
hope she may be able to observe the Rule for many years to come.’ I was
feeling decidedly pleased at this compliment when another Sister came
in, and, looking at me, said: ‘Poor little Soeur Therese, how very
tired you seem! You quite alarm me. If you do not soon improve, I am
afraid you will not be able to keep the Rule very long.’ I was then
only sixteen, but this little incident made such an impression on me,
that I never again set store on the varying opinion of creatures.”

On another occasion someone remarked: ”It is said that you have never
suffered much.” Smiling, she pointed to a glass containing medicine of
a bright red colour. ”You see this little glass?” she said. ”One would
suppose that it contained a most delicious draught, whereas, in
reality, it is more bitter than anything else I take. It is the image
of my life. To others it has been all rose colour; they have thought
that I continually drank of a most delicious wine; yet to me it has
been full of bitterness. I say bitterness, and yet my life has not been
a bitter one, for I have learned to find my joy and sweetness in all
that is bitter.”

”You are suffering very much just now, are you not?” ”Yes, but then I
have so longed to suffer.” ”How it distresses us to see you in such
pain, and to think that it may increase!” said her novices.

”Oh! Do not grieve about me. I have reached a point where I can no
longer suffer, because all suffering is become so sweet. Besides, it is
quite a mistake to trouble yourselves as to what I may still have to
undergo. It is like meddling with God’s work. We who run in the way of
Love must never allow ourselves to be disturbed by anything. If I did
not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for
me to be patient; but I only look at the present, I forget the past,
and I take good care not to forestall the future. When we yield to
discouragement or despair, it is usually because we think too much
about the past and the future. But pray much for me, for it is often
just when I cry to Heaven for help that I feel most abandoned.”

”How do you manage not to give way to discouragement at such times?” ”I
turn to God and all His Saints, and thank them notwithstanding; I
believe they want to see how far my trust may extend. But the words of
Job have not entered my heart in vain: ‘Even if God should kill me, I
would still trust in Him.’ [155] I own it has taken a long time to
arrive at this degree of self-abandonment; but I have reached it now,
and it is the Lord Himself Who has brought me there.”

Another time she said: ”Our Lord’s Will fills my heart to the brim, and
hence, if aught else is added, it cannot penetrate to any depth, but,
like oil on the surface of limpid waters, glides easily across. If my
heart were not already brimming over, and must needs be filled by the
feelings of joy and sadness that alternate so rapidly, then indeed
would it be flooded by a wave of bitter pain; but these
quick-succeeding changes scarcely ruffle the surface of my soul, and in
its depths there reigns a peace that nothing can disturb.”

And yet her soul was enveloped in thick darkness, and her temptations
against Faith, ever conquered but ever returning, were there to rob her
of all feeling of happiness at the thought of her approaching death.
”Were it not for this trial, which is impossible to understand,” she
would say, ”I think I should die of joy at the prospect of soon leaving
this earth.”

By this trial, the Divine Master wished to put the finishing touches to
her purification, and thus enable her not only to walk with rapid
steps, but to run in her little way of confidence and abandonment. Her
words repeatedly proved this. ”I desire neither death nor life. Were
Our Lord to offer me my choice, I would not choose. I only will what He
wills; it is what He does that I love. I do not fear the last struggle,
nor any pains–however great–my illness may bring. God has always been
my help. He has led me by the hand from my earliest childhood, and on
Him I rely. My agony may reach the furthest limits, but I am convinced
He will never forsake me.”

Such confidence in God, of necessity stirred the fury of the devil–of
him who, at life’s close, tries every ruse to sow the seeds of despair
in the hearts of the dying.

”Last night I was seized with a terrible feeling of anguish,” she
confessed to Mother Agnes of Jesus on one occasion; ”I was lost in
darkness, and from out of it came an accursed voice: ‘Are you certain
God loves you? Has He Himself told you so? The opinion of creatures
will not justify you in His sight.’ These thoughts had long tortured
me, when your little note, like a message from Heaven, was brought to
me. You recalled to me, dear Mother, the special graces Jesus had
lavished upon me, and, as though you had had a revelation concerning my
trial, you assured me I was deeply loved by God, and was on the eve of
receiving from His Hands my eternal crown. Immediately peace and joy
were restored to my heart. Yet the thought came to me, ‘It is my little
Mother’s affection that makes her write these words.’ Straightway I
felt inspired to take up the Gospels, and, opening the book at random,
I lighted on a passage which had hitherto escaped me: ‘He whom God hath
sent speaketh the Words of God, for God doth not give the Spirit by
measure.’ [156] Then I fell asleep fully consoled. It was you, dear
Mother, whom the Good God sent me, and I must believe you, because you
speak the Words of God.”

For several days, during the month of August, Therese remained, so to
speak, beside herself, and implored that prayers might be offered for
her. She had never before been seen in this state, and in her
inexpressible anguish she kept repeating: ”Oh! how necessary it is to
pray for the agonising! If one only knew!”

One night she entreated the Infirmarian to sprinkle her bed with Holy
Water, saying: ”I am besieged by the devil. I do not see him, but I
feel him; he torments me and holds me with a grip of iron, that I may
not find one crumb of comfort; he augments my woes, that I may be
driven to despair. . . . And I cannot pray. I can only look at Our
Blessed Lady and say: ‘Jesus!’ How needful is that prayer we use at
Compline: ‘Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata!’ (‘Free us
from the phantoms of the night.’) Something mysterious is happening
within me. I am not suffering for myself, but for some other soul, and
satan is angry.” The Infirmarian, startled, lighted a blessed candle,
and the spirit of darkness fled, never to return; but the sufferer
remained to the end in a state of extreme anguish.

One day, while she was contemplating the beautiful heavens, some one
said to her: ”soon your home will be there, beyond the blue sky. How
lovingly you gaze at it!” She only smiled, but afterwards she said to
the Mother Prioress: ”Dear Mother, the Sisters do not realise my
sufferings. Just now, when looking at the sky, I merely admired the
beauty of the material heaven–the true Heaven seems more than ever
closed against me. At first their words troubled me, but an interior
voice whispered: ‘Yes, you were looking to Heaven out of love. Since
your soul is entirely delivered up to love, all your actions, even the
most indifferent, are marked with this divine seal.’ At once I was
consoled.”

In spite of the darkness which enveloped her, her Divine Saviour
sometimes left the door of her prison ajar. Those were moments in which
her soul lost itself in transports of confidence and love. Thus it
happened that on a certain day, when walking in the garden supported by
one of her own sisters, she stopped at the charming spectacle of a hen
sheltering its pretty little ones under its wing. Her eyes filled with
tears, and, turning to her companion, she said: ”I cannot remain here
any longer, let us go in!” And even when she reached her cell, her
tears continued to fall, and it was some time before she could speak.
At last she looked at her sister with a heavenly expression, and said:
”I was thinking of Our Lord, and the beautiful comparison He chose in
order to make us understand His ineffable tenderness. This is what He
has done for me all the days of my life. He has completely hidden me
under His Wing. I cannot express all that has just stirred my heart; it
is well for me that God conceals Himself, and lets me see the effects
of His Mercy but rarely, and as it were from ‘behind the lattices.’
Were it not so I could never bear such sweetness.”

. . . . . .

Disconsolate at the prospect of losing their treasure, the Community
began a novena to Our Lady of Victories on June 5, 1897, in the fervent
hope that she would once again miraculously raise the drooping Little
Flower. But her answer was the same as that given by the blessed
Martyr, Theophane Venard, and they were forced to accept with
generosity the bitterness of the coming separation.

At the beginning of July, her state became very serious, and she was at
last removed to the Infirmary. Seeing her empty cell, and knowing she
would never return to it, Mother Agnes of Jesus said to her: ”When you
are no longer with us, how sad I shall feel when I look at this cell!”

”For consolation, little Mother, you can think how happy I am up there,
and remember that much of my happiness was acquired in that little
cell; for,” she added, raising her beautiful eyes to Heaven, ”I have
suffered so much there, and I should have been happy to die there.”

As she entered the Infirmary she looked towards the miraculous statue
of Our Lady, which had been brought thither. It would be impossible to
describe that look. ”What is it you see?” said her sister Marie, the
witness of her miraculous cure as a child. And Therese answered: ”Never
has she seemed to me so beautiful . . . but to-day it is the statue,
whereas that other day, as you well know, it was not the statue!” And
from that time she often received similar consolations.

One evening she exclaimed: ”Oh, how I love Our Blessed Lady! Had I been
a Priest, how I would have sung her praises! She is spoken of as
unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation.
. . . She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her
splendour eclipses that of all the Saints as the rising sun makes all
the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take
away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe
that she will greatly increase the splendour of the elect . . . Our
Mother Mary! Oh! how simple her life must have been!” and, continuing
her discourse, she drew such a sweet and delightful picture of the Holy
Family that all present were lost in admiration.

A very heavy cross awaited her before going to join her Spouse. From
August 16 to September 30, the happy day of her death, she was unable
to receive Holy Communion, because of her continual sickness. Few have
hungered for the Bread of Angels like this seraph of earth. Again and
again during that last winter of her life, after nights of intolerable
pain, she rose at early morn to partake of the Manna of Heaven, and she
thought no price too heavy to pay for the bliss of feeding upon God.
Before depriving her altogether of this Heavenly Food, Our Lord often
visited her on her bed of pain. Her Communion on July 16, the feast of
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was specially touching. During the previous
night she composed some verses which were to be sung before Communion.

Thou know’st the baseness of my soul, O Lord, Yet fearest not to stoop
and enter me. Come to my heart, O Sacrament adored! Come to my heart .
. . it craveth but for Thee! And when Thou comest, straightway let me
die Of very love for Thee; this boon impart! Oh, hearken Jesus, to my
suppliant cry: Come to my heart!

In the morning, when the Holy Viaticum was carried to the Infirmary,
the cloisters were thickly strewn with wild flowers and rose-petals. A
young Priest, who was about to say his first Mass that day in the
Chapel of the Carmel, bore the Blessed Sacrament to the dying Sister;
and at her desire, Sister Mary of the Eucharist–whose voice was
exceptionally sweet–sang the following couplet:

Sweet martyrdom! to die of love’s keen fire:

The martyrdom of which my heart is fain!

Hasten, ye Cherubim, to tune your lyre;

I shall not linger long in exile’s pain!

. . . . . .

Fulfill my dream, O Jesus, since I sigh

Of love to die!

A few days later Therese grew worse, and on July 30 she received
Extreme Unction. Radiant with delight the little Victim of Love said to
us: ”The door of my dark prison is ajar. I am steeped in joy,
especially since our Father Superior has assured me that to-day my soul
is like unto that of a little child after Baptism.”

No doubt she thought she was quickly to join the white-robed band of
the Holy Innocents. She little knew that two long months of martyrdom
had still to run their course. ”Dear Mother,” she said, ”I entreat you,
give me leave to die. Let me offer my life for such and such an
intention”–naming it to the Prioress. And when the permission was
refused, she replied: ”Well, I know that just at this moment Our Lord
has such a longing for a tiny bunch of grapes–which no one will give
Him–that He will perforce have to come and steal it. . . . I do not
ask anything; this would be to stray from my path of self-surrender. I
only beseech Our Lady to remind her Jesus of the title of Thief, which
He takes to Himself in the Gospels, so that He may not forget to come
and carry me away.”

. . . . . .

One day Soeur Therese took an ear of corn from a sheaf they had brought
her. It was so laden with grain that it bent on its stalk, and after
gazing upon it for some time she said to the Mother Prioress: ”Mother,
that ear of corn is the image of my soul. God has loaded it with graces
for me and for many others. And it is my dearest wish ever to bend
beneath the weight of God’s gifts, acknowledging that all comes from
Him.”

She was right. Her soul was indeed laden with graces, and it was easy
to discern the Spirit of God speaking His praises out of the mouth of
that innocent child.

Had not this Spirit of Truth already dictated these words to the great
Teresa of Avila:

”Let those souls who have reached to perfect union with God hold
themselves in high esteem, with a humble and holy presumption. Let them
keep unceasingly before their eyes the remembrance of the good things
they have received, and beware of the thought that they are practising
humility in not recognising the gifts of God. Is it not clear that the
constant remembrance of gifts bestowed serves to increase the love of
the giver? How can he who ignores the riches he possesses, spend them
generously upon others?”

But the above was not the only occasion on which the ”little Therese of
Lisieux” [157] gave utterance to words that proved prophetic. In the
month of April, 1895, while she was still in excellent health, she said
in confidence to one of the older nuns: ”I shall die soon. I do not say
that it will be in a few months, but in two or three years at most; I
know it because of what is taking place in my soul.”

The novices betrayed surprise when she read their inmost thoughts.
”This is my secret,” she said to them: ”I never reprimand you without
first invoking Our Blessed Lady, and asking her to inspire me as to
what will be most for your good, and I am often astonished myself at
the things I teach you. At such times I feel that I make no mistake,
and that it is Jesus Who speak by my lips.”

During her illness one of her sisters had experienced some moments of
acute distress, amounting almost to discouragement, at the thought of
the inevitable parting. Immediately afterwards she went to the
Infirmary, but was careful not to let any sign of grief be seen. What
was her surprise when Therese, in a sad and serious tone, thus
addressed her: ”We ought not to weep like those who have no hope.”

One of the Mothers, having come to visit her, did her a trifling
service. ”How happy I should be,” thought the Mother, ”if this Angel
would only say: ‘I will repay you in Heaven!’ At that instant Soeur
Therese, turning to her, said: ”Mother, I will repay you in Heaven!”

But more surprising than all, was her consciousness of the mission for
which Our Lord had destined her. The veil which hides the future seemed
lifted, and more than once she revealed to us its secrets, in
prophecies which have already been realised.

”I have never given the Good God aught but love; it is with Love He
will repay.

AFTER MY DEATH I WILL LET FALL A SHOWER OF ROSES.”

At another time she interrupted a Sister, who was speaking to her of
the happiness of Heaven, by the sublime words: ”It is not that which
attracts me.”

”And what attracts you?” asked the other. ”Oh! it is Love! To love, to
be beloved, and to return to earth to win love for our Love!”

One evening, she welcomed Mother Agnes of Jesus with an extraordinary
expression of joy: ”Mother!” she said, ”some notes from a concert far
away have just reached my ears, and have made me think that soon I
shall be listening to the wondrous melodies of Paradise. The thought,
however, gave me but a moment’s joy–one hope alone makes my heart beat
fast: the Love that I shall receive and the Love I shall be able to
give!

”I feel that my mission is soon to begin–my mission to make others
love God as I love Him . . . to each souls my little way . . .

I WILL SPEND MY HEAVEN IN DOING GOOD UPON EARTH.

Nor is this impossible, since from the very heart of the Beatific
Vision, the Angels keep watch over us. No, there can be no rest for me
until the end of the world. But when the Angel shall have said: ‘Time
is no more!’ then I shall rest, then I shall be able to rejoice,
because the number of the elect will be complete.”

”And what is this little way that you would teach to souls?”

”IT IS THE WAY OF SPIRITUAL CHILDHOOD, THE WAY OF TRUST AND ABSOLUTE
SELF-SURRENDER.

I want to point out to them the means that I have always found so
perfectly successful, to tell them that there is but one thing to do
here below: we must offer Jesus the flowers of little sacrifices and
win Him by a caress. That is how I have won Him, and that is why I
shall be made so welcome.”

”Should I guide you wrongly by my little way of love,” she said to a
novice, ”do not fear that I shall allow you to continue therein; I
should soon come back to the earth, and tell you to take another road.
If I do not return, then believe in the truth of these my words: We can
never have too much confidence in the Good God, He is so mighty, so
merciful. As we hope in Him so shall we receive.”

On the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a novice said to
her: ”I think that if you were to die to-morrow, after Holy Communion,
I should be quite consoled–it would be such a beautiful death!”
Therese answered quickly: ”Die after Holy Communion! Upon a great
feast! Nay, not so. In my ‘little way’ everything is most ordinary; all
that I do, little souls must be able to do likewise.”

And to one of her missionary brothers she wrote: ”What draws me to my
Heavenly Home is the summons of my Lord, together with the hope that at
length I shall love Him as my heart desires, and shall be able to make
Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him throughout
eternity.”

And in another letter to China: ”I trust fully that I shall not remain
idle in Heaven; my desire is to continue my work for the Church and for
souls. I ask this of God, and I am convinced He will hear my prayer.
You see that if I quit the battle-field so soon, it is not from a
selfish desire of repose. For a long time now, suffering has been my
Heaven here upon earth, and I can hardly conceive how I shall become
acclimatised to a land where joy is unmixed with sorrow. Jesus will
certainly have to work a complete change in my soul–else I could never
support the ecstasies of Paradise.”

It was quite true, suffering had become her Heaven upon earth–she
welcomed it as we do happiness. ”When I suffer much,” she would say,
”when something painful or disagreeable happens to me, instead of a
melancholy look, I answer by a smile. At first I did not always
succeed, but now it has become a habit which I am glad to have
acquired.”

A certain Sister entertained doubts concerning the patience of Therese.
One day, during a visit, she remarked that the invalid’s face wore an
expression of unearthly joy, and she sought to know the reason. ”It is
because the pain is so acute just now,” Therese replied; ”I have always
forced myself to love suffering and to give it a glad welcome.” ”Why
are you so bright this morning?” asked Mother Agnes of Jesus. ”Because
of two little crosses. Nothing gives me ‘little joys’ like ‘little
crosses.'” And another time: ”You have had many trials to-day?” ”Yes,
but I love them! . . . I love all the Good God sends me!” ”Your
sufferings are terrible!” ”No–they are not terrible: can a little
Victim of Love find anything terrible that is sent by her Spouse? Each
moment He sends me what I am able to bear, and nothing more, and if He
increase the pain, my strength is increased as well. But I could never
ask for greater sufferings–I am too little a soul. They would then be
of my own choice. I should have to bear them all without Him, and I
have never been able to do anything when left to myself.”

Thus spoke that wise and prudent Virgin on her deathbed, and her lamp,
filled to the brim with the oil of virtue, burned brightly to the end.
If, as the Holy Spirit reminds us in the Book of Proverbs: ”A man’s
doctrine is proved by his patience,” [158] those who have heard her may
well believe in her doctrine, for she has proved it by a patience no
test could overcome.

At each visit the doctor expressed his admiration. ”If only you knew
what she has to endure! I have never seen any one suffer so intensely
with such a look of supernatural joy. . . . I shall not be able to cure
her; she was not made for this earth.” In view of her extreme weakness,
he ordered some strengthening remedies. Therese was at first distressed
because of their cost, but she afterwards admitted: ”I am no longer
troubled at having to take those expensive remedies, for I have read
that when they were given to St. Gertrude, she was gladdened by the
thought that it would redound to the good of our benefactors, since Our
Lord Himself has said: ‘Whatever you do to the least of My little ones,
you do unto Me.'” [159] ”I am convinced that medicines are powerless to
cure me,” she added, ”but I have made a covenant with God that the poor
missionaries who have neither time nor means to take care of themselves
may profit thereby.”

She was much moved by the constant gifts of flowers made to her by her
friends outside the Convent, and again by the visits of a sweet little
redbreast that loved to play about her bed. She saw in these things the
Hand of God. ”Mother, I feel deeply the many touching proofs of God’s
Love for me. I am laden with them . . . nevertheless, I continue in the
deepest gloom! . . . I suffer much . . . very much! and yet my state is
one of profound peace. All my longings have been realised . . . I am
full of confidence.”

Shortly afterwards she told me this touching little incident: ”One
evening, during the ‘Great Silence,’ the Infirmarian brought me a
hot-water bottle for my feet, and put tincture of iodine on my chest. I
was in a burning fever, and parched with thirst, and, whilst submitting
to these remedies, I could not help saying to Our Lord: ‘My Jesus, Thou
seest I am already burning, and they have brought me more heat and
fire. Oh! if they had brought me even half a glass of water, what a
comfort it would have been! . . . My Jesus! Thy little child is so
thirsty. But she is glad to have this opportunity of resembling Thee
more closely, and thus helping Thee to save souls.’ The Infirmarian
soon left me, and I did not expect to see her again until the following
morning. What was my surprise when she returned a few minutes later
with a refreshing drink! ‘It has just struck me that you may be
thirsty,’ she said, ‘so I shall bring you something every evening.’ I
looked at her astounded, and when I was once more alone, I melted into
tears. Oh! how good Jesus is! how tender and loving! How easy it is to
reach His Heart!”

. . . . . .

On September 6, the little Spouse of Jesus received a touching proof of
the loving thought of His Sacred Heart. She had frequently expressed a
wish to possess a relic of her special patron, the Venerable Theophane
Venard, but as her desire was not realised, she said no more. She was
quite overcome, therefore, when Mother Prioress brought her the
longed-for treasure–received that very day. She kissed it repeatedly,
and would not consent to part with it.

It may be asked why she was so devoted to this young Martyr. She
herself explained the reason in an affectionate interview with her own
sisters: ”Theophane Venard is a little saint; his life was not marked
by anything extraordinary. He had an ardent devotion to Our Immaculate
Mother and a tender love of his own family.” Dwelling on these words
she added: ”And I, too, love my family with a tender love; I fail to
understand those Saints who do not share my feelings. As a parting gift
I have copied for you some passages from his last letters home. His
soul and mine have many points of resemblance, and his words do but
re-echo my thoughts.”

We give here a copy of that letter, which one might have believed was
composed by Therese herself:

”I can find nothing on earth that can make me truly happy; the desires
of my heart are too vast, and nothing of what the world calls happiness
can satisfy it. Time for me will soon be no more, my thoughts are fixed
on Eternity. My heart is full of peace, like a tranquil lake or a
cloudless sky. I do not regret this life on earth. I thirst for the
waters of Life Eternal.

”Yet a little while and my soul will have quitted this earth, will have
finished her exile, will have ended her combat. I go to Heaven. I am
about to enter the Abode of the Blessed–to see what the eye hath never
seen, to hear what the ear hath never heard, to enjoy those things the
heart of man hath not conceived . . . I have reached the hour so
coveted by us all. It is indeed true that Our Lord chooses the little
ones to confound the great ones of this earth. I do not rely upon my
own strength but upon Him Who, on the Cross, vanquished the powers of
hell.

”I am a spring flower which the Divine Master culls for His pleasure.
We are all flowers, planted on this earth, and God will gather us in
His own good time–some sooner, some later . . . I, little flower of
one day, am the first to be gathered! But we shall meet again in
Paradise, where lasting joy will be our portion.

”Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, using the words of the angelic
martyr–Theophane Venard.”

Toward the end of September, when something was repeated to her that
had been said at recreation, concerning the responsibility of those who
have care of souls, she seemed to revive a little and gave utterance to
these beautiful words: ”To him that is little, mercy is granted. [160]
It is possible to remain little even in the most responsible position,
and is it not written that, at the last day, ‘the Lord will arise to
save the meek and lowly ones of the earth’? [161] He does not say ‘to
judge,’ but ‘to save!'”

As time went on, the tide of suffering rose higher and higher, and she
became so weak, that she was unable to make the slightest movement
without assistance. Even to hear anyone whisper increased her
discomfort; and the fever and oppression were so extreme that it was
with the greatest difficulty she was able to articulate a word. And yet
a sweet smile was always on her lips. Her only fear was lest she should
give her Sisters any extra trouble, and until two days before her death
she would never allow any one to remain with her during the night.
However, in spite of her entreaties, the Infirmarian would visit her
from time to time. On one occasion she found Therese with hands joined
and eyes raised to Heaven. ”What are you doing?” she asked; ”you ought
to try and go to sleep.” ”I cannot, Sister, I am suffering too much, so
I am praying. . . .” ”And what do you say to Jesus?” ”I say nothing–I
only love Him!”

”Oh! how good God is!” . . . she sometimes exclaimed. ”Truly He must be
very good to give me strength to bear all I have to suffer.” One day
she said to the Mother Prioress: ”Mother, I would like to make known to
you the state of my soul; but I cannot, I feel too much overcome just
now.” In the evening Therese sent her these lines, written in pencil
with a trembling hand:

”O my God! how good Thou art to the little Victim of Thy Merciful Love!
Now, even when Thou joinest these bodily pains to those of my soul, I
cannot bring myself to say: ‘The anguish of death hath encompassed me.’
[162] I rather cry out in my gratitude: ‘I have gone down into the
valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil, because Thou, O
Lord, art with me.'” [163]

Her little Mother said to her: ”Some think that you are afraid of
death.” ”That may easily come to pass,” she answered; ”I do not rely on
my own feelings, for I know how frail I am. It will be time enough to
bear that cross if it comes, meantime I wish to rejoice in my present
happiness. When the Chaplain asked me if I was resigned to die, I
answered: ‘Father, I need rather to be resigned to live–I feel nothing
but joy at the thought of death.’ Do not be troubled, dear Mother, if I
suffer much and show no sign of happiness at the end. Did not Our Lord
Himself die ‘a Victim of Love,’ and see how great was His Agony!”

. . . . . .

At last dawned the eternal day. It was Thursday, September 30, 1897. In
the morning, the sweet Victim, her eyes fixed on Our Lady’s statue,
spoke thus of her last night on earth: ”Oh! with what fervour I have
prayed to her! . . . And yet it has been pure agony, without a ray of
consolation. . . . Earth’s air is failing me: when shall I breathe the
air of Heaven?”

For weeks she had been unable to raise herself in bed, but, at
half-past two in the afternoon, she sat up and exclaimed: ”Dear Mother,
the chalice is full to overflowing! I could never have believed that it
was possible to suffer so intensely. . . . I can only explain it by my
extreme desire to save souls. . . .” And a little while after: ”Yes,
all that I have written about my thirst for suffering is really true! I
do not regret having surrendered myself to Love.”

She repeated these last words several times. A little later she added:
”Mother, prepare me to die well.” The good Mother Prioress encouraged
her with these words: ”My child, you are quite ready to appear before
God, for you have always understood the virtue of humility.” Then, in
striking words, Therese bore witness to herself:

”Yes, I feel it; my soul has ever sought the truth. . . . I have
understood humility of heart!”

. . . . . .

At half-past four, her agony began–the agony of this ”Victim of Divine
Love.” When the Community gathered round her, she thanked them with the
sweetest smile, and then, completely given over to love and suffering,
the Crucifix clasped in her failing hands, she entered on the final
combat. The sweat of death lay heavy on her brow . . . she trembled . .
. but, as a pilot, when close to harbour, is not dismayed by the fury
of the storm, so this soul, strong in faith, saw close at hand the
beacon-lights of Heaven, and valiantly put forth every effort to reach
the shore.

As the convent bells rang the evening Angelus, she fixed an
inexpressible look upon the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, the Star
of the Sea. Was it not the moment to repeat her beautiful prayer:

”O thou who camest to smile on me in the morn of my life, come once
again and smile, Mother, for now it is eventide!” [164]

A few minutes after seven, turning to the Prioress, the poor little
Martyr asked: ”Mother, is it not the agony? . . . am I not going to
die?” ”Yes, my child, it is the agony, but Jesus perhaps wills that it
be prolonged for some hours.” In a sweet and plaintive voice she
replied: ”Ah, very well then . . . very well . . . I do not wish to
suffer less!”

Then, looking at her crucifix:

”Oh! . . . I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . Thee!”

These were her last words. She had scarcely uttered them when, to our
great surprise, she sank down quite suddenly, her head inclined a
little to the right, in the attitude of the Virgin Martyrs offering
themselves to the sword; or rather, as a Victim of Love, awaiting from
the Divine Archer the fiery shaft, by which she longs to die.

Suddenly she raised herself, as though called by a mysterious voice;
and opening her eyes, which shone with unutterable happiness and peace,
fixed her gaze a little above the statue of Our Lady. Thus she remained
for about the space of a Credo, when her blessed soul, now become the
prey of the ”Divine Eagle,” was borne away to the heights of Heaven.

. . . . . .

A few days before her death, this little Saint had said: ”The death of
Love which I so much desire is that of Jesus upon the Cross.” Her
prayer was fully granted. Darkness enveloped her, and her soul was
steeped in anguish. And yet, may we not apply to her also that sublime
prophecy of St. John of the Cross, referring to souls consumed by the
fire of Divine Love: ”They die Victims of the onslaughts of Love, in
raptured ecstasies–like the swan, whose song grows sweeter as death
draws nigh. Wherefore the Psalmist declared: ‘Precious in the sight of
the Lord is the death of His Saints.’ [165] For then it is that the
rivers of love burst forth from the soul and are whelmed in the Ocean
of Divine Love.”

No sooner had her spotless soul taken its flight than the joy of that
last rapture imprinted itself on her brow, and a radiant smile
illumined her face. We placed a palm-branch in her hand; and the lilies
and roses that adorned her in death were figures of her white robe of
baptism made red by her Martyrdom of Love.

On the Saturday and Sunday a large crowd passed before the grating of
the nuns’ chapel, to gaze on the mortal remains of the ”Little Flower
of Jesus.” Hundreds of medals and rosaries were brought to touch the
”Little Queen” as she lay in the triumphant beauty of her last sleep.

. . . . . .

On October 4, the day of the funeral, there gathered in the Chapel of
the Carmel a goodly company of Priests. The honour was surely due to
one who had prayed so earnestly for those called to that sacred office.
After a last solemn blessing, this grain of priceless wheat was cast
into the furrow by the hands of Holy Mother Church.

Who shall tell how many ripened ears have sprung forth since, how many
the sheaves that are yet to come? ”Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the
grain of wheat, falling into the ground, die, itself remaineth alone.
But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” [166] Once more the word
of the Divine Reaper has been magnificently fulfilled.

THE PRIORESS OF THE CARMEL.
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[150] Dom Gueranger.

[151] Mother Mary of Gonzaga died Dec. 17, 1904, at the age of 71.
Mother Agnes of Jesus (Pauline) was at that time Prioress. The
former–herself of the line of St. Antony of Padua–recognized in Soeur
Therese ”an heroic soul, filled with holiness, and capable of becoming
one day an excellent Prioress.” With this end in view, she trained her
with a strictness for which the young Saint was most grateful. In the
arms of Mother Mary of Gonzaga the ”Little Flower of Jesus” was
welcomed to the Carmel, and in those arms she died–”happy,” she
declared, ”not to have in that hour as Superioress her ‘little Mother,’
in order the better to exercise her spirit of faith in authority.”
[Ed.]

[152] As will be remembered, this was Marie, her eldest sister. [Ed.]

[153] The Blessed Theophane Venard was born at St. Loup, in the diocese
of Poitiers, on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, Nov. 21,
1829. He was martyred at Kecho, Tong-King, on the Feast of the
Presentation of Our Lord, Feb. 2, 1861, at the age of 32. A long and
delightful correspondence with his family, begun in his college days
and completed from his ”cage” at Kecho, reveals a kinship of poesy as
well as of sanctity and of the love of home, between the two ”spring
flowers.” The beauty of his soul was so visible in his boyish face that
he was spared all torture during his two months in the ”cage.” In 1909,
the year in which Therese became ”Servant of God” by the commencement
of the Episcopal Process, her patron received the honours of
Beatification. Another child of France–Joan, its ”Martyr-Maid”–whose
praises have been sung in affectionate verse by the Saints of St. Loup
and Lisieux, was beatified that same year. [Ed.]

[154] An allusion to the obituary notice sent to each of the French
Carmels when a Carmelite nun dies in that country. In the case of those
who die in the odour of sanctity these notices sometimes run to
considerable length. Four notices issued from the Carmel of Lisieux are
of great interest to the clients of Soeur Therese, and are in course of
publication at the Orphans’ Press, Rochdale; those of the Carmel’s
saintly Foundress, Mother Genevieve of St. Teresa, whose death is
referred to in Chapter VIII; Mother Mary of Gonzaga, the Prioress of
Therese; Sister Mary of the Eucharist (Marie Guerin), the cousin of
Therese (Chapter III); and most interesting of all, the long sketch,
partly autobiographical, of Mother Mary of St. Angelus (Marie Ange),
the ”trophy of Therese,” brought by her intercession to the Carmel in
1902–where the writer made her acquaintance in the following spring;
she became Prioress in 1908, dying eighteen months later in the odour
of sanctity, aged only 28. [Ed.]

[155] Cf. Job 13:15.

[156] John 3:34.

[157] When asked before her death how they should pray to her in
Heaven, Soeur Therese, with her wonted simplicity, made answer: ”You
will call me ‘Little Therese’–petite Therese.” And at Gallipoli, on
the occasion of her celebrated apparition in the Carmel there, when the
Prioress, taking her to be St. Teresa of Avila, addressed her as ”our
holy Mother,” the visitor, adopting her then official title,
replied:–”Nay, I am not our holy Mother, I am the Servant of God,
Soeur Therese of Lisieux.” This, her own name of Soeur Therese, has
been retained in the present edition, unless where it was advisable to
set down her name in full–Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the
Holy Face. The name of the ”Little Flower,” borrowed by her from the
Blessed Theophane Venard, and used so extensively in the pages of her
manuscript, is the one by which she is best known in English-speaking
lands. [Ed.]

[158] Cf. Prov. 19:11.

[159] Matt. 25:49.

[160] Wisdom 6:7.

[161] Cf. Ps. 75[76]:10.

[162] Cf. Ps. 17[18]:5.

[163] Cf. Ps. 22[23]:4.

[164] From the last poem written by Soeur Therese.

[165] Ps. 115[116]:15.

[166] John 12:24, 25.
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