Title: Story of a Soul (l’Histoire d’une Ame): The Autobiography of St.
Therese of Lisieux
Creator(s): Therese, of Lisieux, Saint (1873-1897)
Print Basis: London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1912;
Rights: Public Domain
CCEL Subjects: All; Classic; Mysticism;



This electronic edition of the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
(The Story of a Soul) includes much, but not all, of the content of
Soeur Therese of Lisieux (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1912; 8th
ed., 1922), edited by Rev. T.N. Taylor. All the translated writings and
sayings of St. Therese contained in that book are in this electronic
edition, including the autobiography as well as ”Counsels and
Reminiscences,” letters, and selected poems. Also included are the
preface by Cardinal Bourne, the prologue relating Therese’s parentage
and birth, and the epilogue describing her final illness, her death,
and related events. Not included are the illustrations, the list of
illustrations, accounts of favors attributed to the intercession of St.
Therese, documents related to her beatification, and some other
material not written by her.

Some footnotes have been slightly modified for ease of reference. A few
footnotes, referring to page numbers in the original, have been
modified or omitted. Citations to the Psalms, many of which were
numbered differently in Catholic Bibles of St. Therese’s time than they
commonly are today, have the ”new” number in brackets next to the ”old”
number from the original–e.g., ”Psalm 22[23]:1-4.”

The original page headers, page numbering, disclaimer of any intention
to anticipate the judgment of the Church in calling St. Therese a
”saint” before her canonization, and other extraneous matter, which
were deemed suitable for a printed book in 1922 but not for an e-book
in 2005, are not here. The French ”oe” ligature, in words such as
”soeur,” is not available in the standard ISO-8859-1 character set, and
obviously is represented here by the two-letter combination ”oe.” The
first word of each chapter is not set in all caps as it was in the
printed book. A few obvious typographical errors have been corrected,
with the changes in brackets, e.g., ”[s]he” for ”the” in Chapter IX.
All else, including capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and British
spelling, is intended to reflect the content of the eighth edition of
Soeur Therese of Lisieux. If it does not, the fault is that of the
transcriber (me, David McClamrock).







IMPRIMATUR EDMUNDUS Canonicus SURMONT Vicarius Generalis

WESTMONASTERII, die nona Decembris, 1912.



1. Earliest Memories
2. A Catholic Household
3. Pauline Enters the Carmel
4. First Communion and Confirmation
5. Vocation of Therese
6. A Pilgrimage to Rome
7. The Little Flower Enters the Carmel
8. Profession of Soeur Therese
9. The Night of the Soul
10. The New Commandment
11. A Canticle of Love

+ To Celine
+ To Mother Agnes of Jesus
+ To Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart
+ To Sister Frances Teresa
+ To Marie Guerin
+ To Jeanne Guerin
+ To Missionaries
+ Her Act of Oblation
+ A Morning Prayer
+ Act of Consecration to the Holy Face
+ Prayer in Honour of the Holy Child
+ Prayer to the Holy Child
+ Prayer to the Holy Face
+ Prayer in Honour of St. Joan of Arc
+ Prayer to Obtain Humility
+ My Song of To-day
+ Memories
+ I Thirst for Love
+ To Scatter Flowers
+ Why I Love Thee, Mary
* SHOWER OF ROSES [omitted]
* SUPPLEMENT [omitted]




As we become acquainted with the histories of those in whom, in long
succession, God has been pleased to show forth examples of holiness of
life, it seems as if every phase of human existence had in the history
of the Church received its consecration as a power to bring men nearer
to their Maker. But there is no limit to the types of sanctity which
the Creator is pleased to unfold before His Creatures. To many, on
reading for the first time the story of Sister Teresa of the Child
Jesus and of the Holy Face, it came almost as a shock to find a very
youthful member of an austere Order, strictly retired from the world,
engaged in hidden prayer and mortification, appearing before us to
reveal to the whole world the wonders of the close intimacy of
friendship to which her Divine Spouse had been pleased to call her.
Certainly the way by which Soeur Therese was led is not the normal life
of Carmel, nor hers the manner whereby most Carmelites are called to
accomplish the wondrous apostolate of intercession to which their lives
are given. But no less certain is it that, in her particular case, her
work for God and her apostolate were not to be confined between the
walls of her religious home, or to be limited by her few years on

In the first place, we know that it was by obedience that the record of
God’s dealings with her soul were set down in writing. And again, the
long tale of graces granted in such strange profusion through her
intercession is proof sufficient that it was not without Divine
permission and guidance that the history of her special and peculiar
vocation has become the property of all Catholics in every land. It is
for God to keep, and for Him to make known the secrets of His Love for
men. And in the case of Soeur Therese it has been His Will to divulge
His secrets in most generous consideration for our needs.

What are the hidden treasures which Our Divine Master thus reveals to
us through His chosen little servant?

It is the old story of simplicity in God’s service, of the perfect
accomplishment of small recurring duties, of trustful confidence in Him
who made and has redeemed and sanctified us. Humility, self-effacement,
obedience, hiddenness, unfaltering charity, with all the self-control
and constant effort that they imply, are written on every page of the
history of this little Saint. And, as we turn its pages, the lesson is
borne in upon our souls that there is no surer nor safer way of
pleasing Our Father Who is in Heaven than by remaining ever as little
children in His sight. Doubtless for many of her clients whose hearts
are kindled as they read this book, Soeur Therese will obtain, as she
has done so often in the past, wonderful gifts for health of soul and
body. But may she win for all of us without exception a deep and
fruitful conviction of the unchanging truth, that unless we become as
little children in the doing of our Heavenly Father’s Will, we cannot
enter into our Eternal Home.

FRANCIS CARDINAL BOURNE, Archbishop of Westminster.
Feast of the Presentation of Our Blessed Lady, 1912.


In the month of September, 1843, a young man of twenty climbed the
mountain of the Great St. Bernard. His eyes shone with a holy
enthusiasm as the splendour of the Alps stirred to the depths his
responsive nature. Presently, accustomed as they were to discern God’s
beauty in the beauty of His handiwork, they glistened with tears. He
paused for a space, then, continuing his journey, soon reached the
celebrated monastery that like a beacon on those heights darts afar its
beams of faith and magnificent charity.

The Prior, struck by the frank and open countenance of his guest,
welcomed him with more than wonted hospitality. Louis Joseph Stanislaus
Martin was the pilgrim’s name. He was born on August 22, 1823, at
Bordeaux, while his father, a brave and devout soldier, was captain in
the garrison there. ”God has predestined this little one for Himself,”
said the saintly Bishop of Bordeaux on the occasion of his baptism, and
events have proved the truth of his words. From this town, by the banks
of the Garonne, his parents went to Alenc,on in lower Normandy, and
there in their new home, as in their old one, Louis was the cherished

It was not the loveliness of Swiss lakes and mountains and skies that
had drawn the traveller from distant Alenc,on. He came to the
monastery–and his journey was chiefly on foot–to consecrate his days
to God. On learning his purpose the Prior questioned him upon his
knowledge of Latin, only to discover that the young aspirant had not
completed his course of studies in that language. ”I am indeed sorry,
my child,” said the venerable monk, ”since this is an essential
condition, but you must not be disheartened. Go back to your own
country, apply yourself diligently, and when you have ended your
studies we shall receive you with open arms.”

Louis was disappointed. He set out for home–for exile he would have
said–but ere long he saw clearly that his life was to be dedicated to
God in another and equally fruitful way, and that the Alpine monastery
was to be nothing more to him than a sweet memory.

* * * * * *

A few years after the vain quest of Louis Martin, a similar scene was
enacted in Alenc,on itself. Accompanied by her mother, Zelie Guerin–an
attractive and pious girl–presented herself at the Convent of the
Sisters of Charity in the hope of gaining admission. For years it had
been her desire to share the Sisters’ work, but this was not to be. In
the interview that followed, the Superioress–guided by the Holy
Ghost–decided unhesitatingly that Zelie’s vocation was not for the
religious life. God wanted her in the world, and so she returned to her
parents, and to the companionship of her elder sister and her younger
brother. Shortly afterwards the gates of the Visitation Convent at Le
Mans closed upon her beloved sister, and Zelie’s thoughts turned to the
Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. ”O my God”–she repeated constantly–
”since I am unworthy to be Thy Spouse, like my dear sister, I shall
enter the married state to fulfill Thy Holy Will, and I beseech Thee to
make me the mother of many children, and to grant that all of them may
be dedicated to Thee.”

God gave ear to her prayer, and His Finger was visible in the
circumstances which led to her becoming the wife of Louis Martin, on
July 12, 1858, in Alenc,on’s lovely Church of Notre Dame. Like the
chaste Tobias, they were joined together in matrimony–”solely for the
love of children, in whom God’s Name might be blessed for ever and
ever.” Nine white flowers bloomed in this sacred garden. Of the nine,
four were transplanted to Paradise ere their buds had quite unfolded,
while five were gathered in God’s walled gardens upon earth, one
entering the Visitation Convent at Caen, the others the Carmel of

From the cradle all were dedicated to Mary Immaculate, and all received
her name: Marie Louise, Marie Pauline, Marie Leonie, Marie Helene, who
died at the age of four and a half, Marie Joseph Louis, Marie Joseph
Jean Baptiste, Marie Celine, Marie Melanie Therese, who died when three
months old, and lastly, Marie Franc,oise Therese.

The two boys were the fruit of prayers and tears. After the birth of
the four elder girls, their parents entreated St. Joseph to obtain for
them the favour of a son who should become a priest and a missionary.
Marie Joseph soon was given them, and his pretty ways appealed to all
hearts, but only five months had run their course when Heaven demanded
what it had lent. Then followed more urgent novenas.

The grandeur of the Priesthood, glorious upon earth, ineffable in
eternity, was so well understood by those Christian parents, that their
hearts coveted it most dearly. At all costs the family must have a
Priest of the Lord, one who would be an apostle, peradventure a martyr.
But, ”the thoughts of the Lord are not our thoughts, His ways are not
our ways.” Another little Joseph was born, and with him hope once again
grew strong. Alas! Nine months had scarcely passed when he, too, fled
from this world and joined his angel brother.

They did not ask again. Yet, could the veil of the future have been
lifted, their heavy hearts would, of a surety, have been comforted. A
child was to be vouchsafed them who would be a herald of Divine love,
not to China alone, but to all the ends of the earth.

Nay, they themselves were destined to shine as apostles, and we read on
one of the first pages of the Portuguese edition of the Autobiography,
these significant words of an eminent Jesuit:

”To the Sacred Memory of Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin and of Zelie
Guerin, the blessed parents of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, for an
example to all Christian parents.”

They little dreamed of this future apostolate, nevertheless they made
ready their souls day by day to be God’s own instruments in God’s good
time. With most loving resignation they greeted the many crosses which
the Lord laid upon them–the Lord whose tender name of Father is truest
in the dark hour of trial.

Every morning saw them at Mass; together they knelt at the Holy Table.
They strictly observed the fasts and abstinences of the Church, kept
Sunday as a day of complete rest from work in spite of the remonstrance
of friends, and found in pious reading their most delightful
recreation. They prayed in common–after the touching example of
Captain Martin, whose devout way of repeating the Our Father brought
tears to all eyes. Thus the great Christian virtues flourished in their
home. Wealth did not bring luxury in its train, and a strict simplicity
was invariably observed.

”How mistaken are the great majority of men!” Madame Martin used often
to say. ”If they are rich, they at once desire honours; and if these
are obtained, they are still unhappy; for never can that heart be
satisfied which seeks anything but God.”

Her whole ambition as a mother was directed to Heaven. ”Four of my
children are already well settled in life,” she once wrote; ”and the
others will go likewise to that Heavenly Kingdom–enriched with greater
merit because the combat will have been more prolonged.”

Charity in all its forms was a natural outlet to the piety of these
simple hearts. Husband and wife set aside each year a considerable
portion of their earnings for the Propagation of the Faith; they
relieved poor persons in distress, and ministered to them with their
own hands. On one occasion Monsieur Martin, like a good Samaritan, was
seen to raise a drunken man from the ground in a busy thoroughfare,
take his bag of tools, support him on his arm, and lead him home.
Another time when he saw, in a railway station, a poor and starving
epileptic without the means to return to his distant home, he was so
touched with pity that he took off his hat and, placing in it an alms,
proceeded to beg from the passengers on behalf of the sufferer. Money
poured in, and it was with a heart brimming over with gratitude that
the sick man blessed his benefactor.

Never did he allow the meannesses of human respect to degrade his
Christian dignity. In whatever company he might be, he always saluted
the Blessed Sacrament when passing a Church; and he never met a priest
without paying him a mark of respect. A word from his lips sufficed to
silence whosoever dared blaspheme in his presence.

In reward for his virtues, God showered even temporal blessings on His
faithful servant. In 1871 he was able to give up his business as a
jeweller, and retire to a house in the Rue St. Blaise. The making of
point-lace, however, begun by Madame Martin, was still carried on.

In that house the ”Little Flower of Jesus” first saw the sunshine.
Again and again, in the pages of her Autobiography, she calls herself
by this modest name of the Little Flower, emblematic of her humility,
her purity, her simplicity, and it may be added, of the poetry of her
soul. The reader will learn in the Epilogue how it was also used by one
of her favourite martyr-saints–the now Blessed Theophane Venard. On
the manuscript of her Autobiography she set the title: ”The Story of
the Springtime of a little white Flower,” and in truth such it was, for
long ere the rigours of life’s winter came round, the Flower was
blossoming in Paradise.

It was, however, in mid-winter, January 2, 1873, that this ninth child
of Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin was born. Marie and Pauline were at
home for the Christmas holidays from the Visitation Convent at Le Mans,
and though there was, it is true, a slight disappointment that the
future priest was still denied them, it quickly passed, and the little
one was regarded as a special gift from Heaven. Later on, her beloved
Father delighted in calling her his ”Little Queen,” adding at times the
high-sounding titles–”Of France and Navarre.”

The Little Queen was indeed well received that winter’s morning, and in
the course of the day a poor waif rang timidly at the door of the happy
home, and presented a paper bearing the following simple stanza:

”Smile and swiftly grow; All beckons thee to joy, Sweet love, and
tenderest care. Smile gladly at the dawn, Bud of an hour!–for thou
Shalt be a stately rose.”

It was a charming prophecy, for the bud unfolded its petals and became
a rose–a rose of love–but not for long, ”for the space of a morn!”

* * * * * *

On January 4, she was carried to the Church of Notre Dame to receive
the Sacrament of Baptism; her eldest sister, Marie, was her godmother,
and she was given the name of Marie Franc,oise Therese. [1]

All was joy at first, but soon the tender bud drooped on its delicate
stem: little hope was held out–it must wither and die. ”You must pray
to St. Francis de Sales,” wrote her aunt from the convent at Le Mans,
”and you must promise, if the child recovers, to call her by her second
name, Frances.” This was a sword-thrust for the Mother. Leaning over
the cradle of her Therese, she awaited the coming of the end, saying:
”Only when the last hope has gone, will I promise to call her Frances.”

The gentle St. Francis waived his claim in favour of the great Reformer
of the Carmelite Order: the child recovered, and so retained her sweet
name of Therese. Sorrow, however, was mixed with the Mother’s joy, when
it became necessary to send the babe to a foster-mother in the country.
There the ”little rose-bud” grew in beauty, and after some months had
gained strength sufficient to allow of her being brought back to
Alenc,on. Her memory of this short but happy time spent with her
sainted Mother in the Rue St. Blaise was extraordinarily vivid. To-day
a tablet on the balcony of No. 42 informs the passers-by that here was
born a certain Carmelite, by name, Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and
the Holy Face. Fifteen years have gone since the meeting in Heaven of
Madame Martin and her Carmelite child, and if the pilgrimage to where
the Little Flower first saw the light of day, be not so large as that
to the grave where her remains await their glorious resurrection, it
may nevertheless be numbered in thousands. And to the English-speaking
pilgrim there is an added pleasure in the fact that her most notable
convert, the first minister of the United Free Church of Scotland to
enter the True Fold, performs, with his convert wife, the courteous
duties of host.

* * * * * *

It will not be amiss to say a brief word here on the brother and sister
of Madame Martin. Her sister–in religion, Sister Marie Dosithea–led a
life so holy at Le Mans that she was cited by Dom Gueranger, perhaps
the most distinguished Benedictine of the nineteenth century, as the
model of a perfect nun. By her own confession, she had never been
guilty from earliest childhood of the smallest deliberate fault. She
died on February 24, 1877. It was in the convent made fragrant by such
holiness that her niece Pauline Martin, elder sister and ”little
mother” of Therese, and for five years her Prioress at the Carmel,
received her education. And if the Little Flower may have imbibed the
liturgical spirit from her teachers, the daughters of St. Benedict in
Lisieux, so that she could say before her death: ”I do not think it is
possible for anyone to have desired more than I to assist properly at
choir and to recite perfectly the Divine Office”–may it not be to the
influences from Le Mans that may be traced something of the honey-sweet
spirit of St. Francis de Sales which pervades the pages of the

With the brother of Zelie Guerin the reader will make acquaintance in
the narrative of Therese. He was a chemist in Lisieux, and it was there
his daughter Jeanne Guerin married Dr. La Neele and his younger child
Marie entered the Carmel. Our foreign missionaries had a warm friend in
the uncle of Therese–for his charities he was made godfather to an
African King; and to the Catholic Press–that home missionary–he was
ever most devoted. Founder, at Lisieux, of the Nocturnal Adoration of
the Blessed Sacrament, and a zealous member of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul, he was called to his abundant reward on September 28,
1909. Verily the lamp of faith is not extinct in the land of the

The Father of Therese, after the death of his wife, likewise made his
home in the delightful town which lies amid the beautiful apple
orchards of the valley of the Touques. Lisieux is deeply interesting by
reason of its fine old churches of St. Jacques and St. Pierre, and its
wonderful specimens of quaint houses, some of which date from the
twelfth century. In matters of faith it is neither fervent nor hostile,
and in 1877 its inhabitants little thought that through their new
citizen, Marie Franc,oise Therese Martin, their town would be rendered

* * * * * *

”The cell at Lisieux reminds us of the cell of the Blessed Gabriel at
Isola. There is the same even tenor of way, the same magnificant
fidelity in little things, the same flames of divine charity, consuming
but concealed. Nazareth, with the simplicity of its Child, and the calm
abysmal love of Mary and Joseph–Nazareth, adorable but imitable, gives
the key to her spirit, and her Autobiography does but repeat the
lessons of the thirty hidden years.” [2]

And it repeats them with an unrivalled charm. ”This master of
asceticism,” writes a biographer [3] of St. Ignatius Loyola, ”loved the
garden and loved the flowers. In the balcony of his study he sat gazing
on the stars: it was then Lainez heard him say: ‘Oh, how earth grows
base to me when I look on Heaven!’ . . . The like imaginative strain,
so scorned of our petty day, inhered in all the lofty souls of that
age. Even the Saints of our day speak a less radiant language: and
sanctity shows ‘shorn of its rays’ through the black fog of universal
utilitarianism, the materiality which men have drawn into the very
lungs of their souls.”

This is not true of the sainted authoress of the chapters that
follow–”less radiant,” in the medium of a translation. In her own
inimitable pages, as in those of a Campion or an Ignatius, a Teresa of
Avila, or a John of the Cross–the Spirit of Poetry is the handmaiden
of Holiness. This new lover of flowers and student of the stars, this
”strewer of roses,” has uplifted a million hearts from the ”base earth”
and ”black fog” to the very throne of God, and her mission is as yet
but begun.

The pen of Soeur Therese herself must now take up the narrative. It
will do so in words that do not merely tell of love but set the heart
on fire, and at the same time lay bare the workings of God in a soul
that ”since the age of three never refused the Good God anything.” The
writing of this Autobiography was an act of obedience, and the Prioress
who imposed the task sought, in all simplicity, her own personal
edification. But the fragrance of its pages was such that she was
advised to publish them to the world. She did so in 1899 under the
title of L’Histoire d’une Ame. An English version by M. H. Dziewicki
appeared in 1901.

This new translation relates more fully the story of the childhood,
girlhood, and brief convent days of Soeur Therese. It tells of her
”Roses,” and sets forth again, in our world-wide tongue, her world-wide
embassy–the ever ancient message of God’s Merciful Love, the ever new
way to Him of ”confidence and self-surrender.”

The Editor.

[1] The baptismal entry, with its numerous signatures, is shown to
visitors, and a tablet in the baptistry of the beautiful Gothic church
tells the pilgrim that here the ”Little Queen” was made a child of God.

[2] ”As Little Children”: the abridged life of Soeur Therese. Published
at the Orphans’ Press, Rochdale.

[3] Francis Thompson.