THE LIFE OF THE LITTLE FLOWER
REV. ALBERT M. HUTTING
The Little Flower at the feet of Pope Leo XIII.
RT. REV. MONSIGNOR M. J. GRUPA
MOST REVEREND EDWARD MOONEY
Archbishop of Detroit
July 8, 1941
By REV. CHAS. E. COUGHLIN
* * *
LEAGUE OF THE LITTLE FLOWER
Royal Oak, Mich.
To My Beloved Parents
These Chapters are
NAME OF CHAPTER
|Excerpt of Letter to
Mother Agnes of Jesus
|II.||The Bridge of Ties||6|
|IV.||The "Queen's" Arrival||18|
|VI.||The Thorn of Thorns||28|
|VIII.||Sermons in Stones||34|
|IX.||Confession and Education||37|
|XI.||First Holy Communion||44|
|XII.||The Lady Knight||49|
|XIII.||Pranzini, the Murderer||54|
|XIV.||Her Call to the Cloister||59|
|XV.||Onward to Rome||64|
|XVII.||Obstacles and Aims||77|
|XVIII.||A Father's Offering||81|
|XX.||Her Double Title||94|
|XXIII.||The Novice Mistress||109|
|XXIV.||The Golden Wand of Prayer||115|
|XXVII.||Sunlight for All||141|
|XXIX.||The Guiding Star||153|
"I HAVE A LONGING for those heart-wounds, those pin-pricks which inflict much pain. I know of no ecstasy to which I do not prefer sacrifice. There I find happiness, and there alone. The slender reed has no fear of being broken, for it is planted beside the waters of Love. When, therefore, it bends before the gale, it gathers strength in the refreshing stream, and longs for yet another storm to pass and sway its head. My very weakness makes me strong. No harm can come to me, since in whatever happens I see only the tender hand of Jesus... Besides, no suffering is too big a price to pay for glorious palm."
Letter to Mother Agnes of Jesus-1889
THIS BOOK makes no pretence to be anything but a sketch of the life of a little saint. Its aim will be achieved if it leads its readers to a more thorough study of her salutary words and edifying deeds as they are recorded in her uniquely interesting Autobiography.
The Little Flower has a message for every individual of every class. First voiced by the Lips of the Divine Master, it echoed through the hills of Judea more than nineteen hundred years ago. It is ancient, yet forever new:"Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven." That this divine ideal of childlike simplicity, can be reached with facility, presupposing that we are filled with good will, is amply demonstrated by the life story which is presented within these pages.
It is the authors hope that this little volume will find its way into many hospitals and there be the source of abundant encouragement to Gods chosen ones, the shut-ins. Little Saint Therese is, in a very special way, their heroic model.
MILITARY ANCESTORSFEW INDIVIDUALS can boast of having had two soldier forefathers. Little Therese, the heroine of this book, could point with pride to that distinction.
When Pierre-Francois Martin took painful leave of his family in Athis-del-Orne and set out for Alencon for his first military training, he had not even the faintest idea that he would one day be envied as the grandfather of a saint. Could he have drawn aside the curtain of the futureand beheld his fifteen year old granddaughter bidding tearful farewell to father and sisters and setting out for the strictest cloister of the world, it would have made his sacrifice lighter and his outlook brighter.
The military expeditions of France gave Pierre-Francois ample opportunity to prove his sterling qualities. By 1823, he had risen to the captaincy in the nineteenth Light Infantry which was garrisoned at Bordeaux. The officers residence was an old house located in the Rue Servandoni. It was here that his wife gave birth to a son whose name shall ever shine gloriously in the annals of earth and in the records of Heaven. The babe, born when his father was away from home, was destined to become the father of St. Therese. He was given the name Louis-Joseph-Aloys-Stanislaus and his arrival is recorded as having taken place on the twenty-second day of August, 1823.
Captain Martin was as true to his family as he was to his flag. Previous to the birth of his son, Louis, Pierre-Francois had fought bravely in no less than six important campaigns. Subsequent to that signal event, he took an important part in the expedition to Spain (1823 to 1824). As far as his public duties permitted, he watched over the education of Louis and grounded him in those solid virtues which were later to be reflected so brilliantly in the life of the Little Flower.
The active military career of Captain Martin terminated with his retirement from the French army at the end of the year 1830. Into the more pacific life which was to follow, he carried the most vivid memories of the skirmishes in which he had participated. His children would frequently hear of the Rhine, the Belle-lie en Mer, Sous Brest, the army of Nord, Prussia and Poland, Morbihan andSpain. And as their father would recount to them the battles in which he had fought, he would make sure to encourage these youngsters to fight on bravely through all the difficulties of life.
True father that he was, Captain Martin cast about for a home which would be so situated as to provide the best educational facilities for his children. His choice fell upon Alencon. Here young Louis could receive the best of religious training and at the same time profit by trips to the country homes of his relatives in Athis.
|"Les Buissonnets," the family residence of the Little Flower.
"I seem already to touch the heavenly shore and to feel our Lord's loving embrace. In my fancy, I can see our Blessed Lady coming towards me, Papa and Mama by her side, and in their company those four little angels, our baby brothers and sisters. Then, at last, I taste, as in a dream, the true and unending joys of Home." ----St. Therese
3 Needless to say, the wide-awake boy delighted in these excursions to the sunlit and blossom covered rural districts of Normandy. Every flower was to him a mirror in which he saw the beauty of God. Every gentle breeze was an angelic whispering to his deeply religious heart. It has frequently been said that what a man is, he owes in large measure to his darling mother. Captain Martins wife must have been a saint. otherwise, she could never have penned the following words to her son, Louis, when he visited his relatives in Rennes:
"What a joy it would be to me, dear Louis, to offer you in person my heartiest and best wishes. Yet we bear the crosses which God sends us, and thank Him every day for the blessings He has bestowed. I felt that He conferred a great blessing on me when I saw you for the first time in your Breton costume,your young heart filled with enthusiasm.... With what joy I pressed you to my heart, for you, dear son, are the dream of my nights and the constant subject of my thoughts.
"How many times do I not think ofyou when my soul, in prayer, follows the leading of my heart and darts up even to the foot of the divine throne. There, I pray with all the fervor of my soul that God may bestown on my children the interior happiness and calm so necessary in this turbulent world."
Heaven only knows how deeply these and other salutary words of maternal affection sank into the heart of the saintly youth and colored all the deeds of his fruitful life.
We should do injustice to the illustrious family of Therese if we were to omit mention of M. Isidore Guerin, maternal grandparent of the Saint. Like PierreFrancois Martin, he was a soldier in the army of the French Empire. He received his early military training at Wagram and was later transferred to the Oudinot Division. After the fall of the Empire, Isidore returned home to join the foot gendarmerie. In that capacity he served until 1844, when he retired to Alencon where he died in 1863, just one decade previous to the date on which his daughter Zelie gave birth to St. Therese.
Why all these remarks concerning the ancestry of the Little Flower? Why stress the fact that her grandfathers were both soldiers? The writer feels justified in emphasizing this coincidence, because that word "soldier" seems to sum up most concisely and most fittingly the character of St. Therese. She had all the tenderness of a woman and, yet, all the heroism of a fighter on the front line.
Sometimes devotion to the Saint of Lisieux is blighted by the incorrect idea that hers was a life of walking at ease in a garden of roses. Such a notion was exploded by the eminent orator, R. P. Perroy, in the Cathedral of Lyons, at a time when devotion to the young Carmelite was growing by leaps and bounds. He said:
"Little Therese de IEnfant Jesus, let me defend you against those who represent you as walking at your ease in a fragrant rose garden. I want to tell the world that your soul was above all virile; I wish to tell them that you could take your place between Joan of Arc and Margaret Mary.
I desire to make known that your combats against self were the combats of God. I would declare you heroic amongst heroines because you have chosen the way most contrary to nature, the way of little ones. I desire to say that if every knee on earth bends before you, if your name has become the most renowned in the world, it is not alone because you bring roses but because, with the Crucified for Whom your flowers have exhaled their fragrance, you have been obedient even unto the Cross."
Chaplains in the world war tell us that "from the day when the war was declared, Therese de lEnfant Jesus left her place in Heaven and entered the field side by side with the Poilus (a name given to the French soldiers) of France. In the mud of the trenches, on the plains of death, near the bed of agony, she was to remain with them faithful to the end.
"Moreover, they realized in their simple and upright hearts the necessity, in order to win the war, of a virtue which Therese had practiced even to a heroism, namely constancy in doing and suffering all in the spirit of duty. Thus was she their model as well as their protectress."
THE BRIDGE OF TIES
IF THE MILITARY EXPLOITS of Thereses grandparents were in some way a foreshadowing of her victories over self and over sin, the foundation and the training for this life of conquest was laid by her devoted parents.
The hand of Providence is clearly seen in the union of these two saintly souls.
Very early in his life Louis Martin, Thereses father, discovered that he had a taste for (the) watch-making (profession.) He had cousins at Rennes who were watchmakers by trade. From them he took his first lessons in what was later to be the occupation of his life. He continued his apprenticeship at Strasbourg with one of his fathers old comrades. His innate love for all that was beautiful drew him frequently to the famous cathedral of that quaint town, where he could examine closely the celebrated clock which is one of the finest pieces of mechanism of its kind in existence. How his heart must have expanded when he saw the little wooden figures of the twelve apostles appear to receive the blessing of a little wooden Christ! What a train of salutary thoughts must have passed through his noble mind, as he watched the custodians of the quarter-hours enter upon the stage, command the scene for fifteen minutes and then disappear.7
(At the beginning of the hour an infant, scarcely able to walk, appears; the second quarter of an hour is ushered in by a youth, probably in his teens; the next fifteen minutes are commanded by a man in his prime; the concluding quarter of an hour brings with it the figure of an aged man with furrowed features and halting step. These marvels of mechanism may still be seen in the Cathedral of Strasbourg where the father of St. Therese was inspired by them nearly a century ago.)
If it were a choice between one of several earthly careers, certainly Louis Martin would choose the watchmaking profession. However, he was a calm and collected youth and made no move without due deliberation. At the age of twenty, he had arrived at the conclusion that all earthly splendor and all material success must one day pass away; that true joy can come only from the possession of those things which are spiritual and eternal; that the surest method of possessing these is "the voluntary renunciation of the fleeting though alluring shadows which claim our attention here below."
There was a spot high up in the great St. Bernard Mountain which captivated the heart of this saintly youth. It was an Augustinian Monastery, erected in that frigid clime for the sole purpose of rescuing unfortunate travelers buried beneath the snow in the mountain gorges, or frozen by the winds that swept over the immense glaciers. Louis envied the men who passed their lives within those quiet walls.
8 He would be one of them. Accordingly, we find him, one morning in September of the year 1843, carefully climbing the difficult slopes of the great mountain in quest of that peace which the world can not give. One might easily conjecture what sentiments filled his heart and what prayer was on his lips, as he beheld a hundred majestic peaks about and above him. "0 ye ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise and exalt Him above all for ever. . . . 0 ye mountains and hills, bless the Lord: praise and exalt Him above all for ever." (Daniel 3,70-75.)
At the end of his toilsome climb, Louis Martin found a gratifying welcome at the threshold of the Monastery. It is characteristic of monastic life that "every guest is received as Christ." The youthful aspirant felt sure that here he would find that calm, which had been hinted at in his mothers letters when he was away on vacation at Rennes. High up in the world amid snow-clad summits, he would pursue the career of a good Samaritan, ministering to the needs of unfortunates who had lost their way in the Alpine passes.
Gods plans did not entirely coincide with Louis wishes. For admission to the Augustinian Brotherhood, it was demanded that the postulant finish his Latin studies. This requirement was lacking in Louis Martin.
"I am sorry," said the Prior. "But be not discouraged. Return to Normandy, work diligently, and when you have completed your studies, we will gladly admit you to our Novitiate."
9 This decision was a stunning blow to the pilgrim from Alencon. Heavy of heart, he retraced his steps to his home where, under the tutorship of the Cure of St. Leonard, he set himself diligently to the study of Latin. Ill health soon forced him to put aside his books. For his own benefit and for the interests of all concerned, he finally decided to return to the business of watch-making. At this juncture, as he bent over his work-bench and set the various jewels in their places and fixed a hundred springs and cogs and levers into the form of a contrivance for telling the time of day, it would have been a source of untold consolation to him, to realize that one day he would be the father of a child who would be set into the firmament of Heaven as one of its brightest stars. But God would reserve that realization to a more auspicious moment.
A similar event of equal importance was happening at about this time at the Hotel-Dieu of Alencon. Zelie Guerin, an exemplary young lady, born at Denis-sur Sarthon, Normandy, was seeking admission to the community of the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul, whose business it was to care for the sick and the poor of that district. The postulant was perfectly equipped with all the requisites for the life to which she aspired. Nothing was lacking either in intellectual attainments or in piety. Yet, strange to say, when she confided her wishes to the Superioress of the Hotel-Dieu, she was told definitely that God had other plans for her and that she was not meant for the religious life of a nun.
10 Zelie's feelings on this occasion must have been somewhat akin to those which were experienced by Louis Martin, when he heard those fateful words on the summit of Mount St. Bernard: "I am sorry son, we cannot admit you until you have finished your studies in Latin."
It was clear to Zelie Guerin that she was destined for the married state. Nothing remained for her but to busy herself in preparing for that life, although her future partner was as yet an unknown to her. From her father, a retired soldier, she could expect but little financial help to meet the demands of her future life. His expenses were many and his pension just nicely provided for the ordinary needs of the family. It was expected of Zelie that she look about for a position which would enable her, unaided, to increase her dowry, a very important item in the Normandy of her day. She needed not to worry for any length of time. In her girlhood days she had learned to have unbounded confidence in the Blessed Mother of God. Now that she had come to a pivotal point in her life, she again had recourse to that Mother of Perpetual Help. Her prayers were answered on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1851, when she heard an interior voice which seemed to give her this command: "Have Alencon point lace made."
Quick to respond to any inspiration from on high, Zelie Guerin began at once to study the various processes by which lace was made. She devoted long days and late hours to the assemblage of pieces already prepared. In fact, she left nothing undone to make herself a specialist in the trade.11 Unprecedented success attended her efforts. Within a short time, she became the head and supervisor of a large group of energetic women who plied the needle in their homes while she "took charge of the orders, supplied the designs and watched over the execution." The lace which she produced found a ready welcome in the homes of the wealthier families of France and wherever the family purse could afford such a luxury. Five hundred francs a metre was not considered an exorbitant price for the unusual quality of Alencon lace which came from the hands of Zelie Guerin. It never entered her fondest dreams that a child of hers would one day feature so prominently in the patterns of Providence.
It is a mathematical truth that parallel lines never meet. But parallel lives do, by the gracious providence of Almighty God. Thus far, we have seen a striking similarity between the lives of Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin. They had never met, had probably never heard of each other. Both in childhood days had listened eagerly to the accounts of the heroic exploits of a soldier father. Both had been given the advantage of a thoroughly Christian education. Both had keenest desires of embracing the life of a religious. Both had tasted bitter disappointment at the threshold of the cloister. Now both had settled down to a work, which, in a unique way, reflected the beauty of God and the grandeur of the universe. He had become a jeweller and she, a maker of lace.
12The fateful meeting of these two profoundly religious souls occurred one day as Zelie Guerin was crossing the bridge of Saint Leonard. A young man of dignified appearance and distinguished demeanor came into sight, almost miraculously at the very moment when Zelie was setting foot upon the bridge. He was a complete stranger to her, but an interior voice told her: "This is he whom I have prepared for thee." Blessed words! They were the introduction to an acquaintanceship which was eventually made permanent by marriage in the Church of Notre-Dame at Alencon on July 12, 1858.
|The Little Flower as a novice at the age of 16.|
MODEL PARENTSOVER THE THRESHOLD of the modest home in the Rue du Pont Neuf, where the newly wedded couple began their married life, might well have been written the words: "Thy Will Be Done." One sole object dominated and directed their entire life: that the designs of God in their regard be fully accomplished. They understood the purpose of marriage and did not seek to evade the responsibilities attached thereto. The prayer so frequently upon the lips of Zelie Guerin, previous to her almost miraculous finding of her partner, continued to be her most ardent supplication now that she had entered the sacred state of matrimony: "0 my God, since I am unworthy to be Thy spouse like my dear sister, I will enter the married state to fulfill Thy holy will. I beseech Thee to make me the mother of many children, and to grant that all of them may be consecrated to Thee." Three observances, altogether too much neglected in our day of "modern ideas," prepared Louis and Zelie for the sublime dignity of fatherhood and motherhood. They abstained from servile work on Sunday; they made it a practice every day to read the Lives of the Saints.
14 In the Eucharistic Sacrifice they found the "key to progress" here on earth. They were conscious of its infinite value; they drew copiously of its limitless graces. They were not content with attending Sunday Mass. If, as they were convinced, in the Mass the fruits of the Redemption are most abundantly received, why not hasten as often as possible to that fountain of mercy. Accordingly, M. and Mme. Martin curtailed their sleep every morning so that they might attend the daily Mass at 5:30 in their parish church. What moved them to choose such an early hour? They were motivated by a desire to be united with Gods poor. These were present in large numbers at the first Mass each day of the week. Their tattered garments and their furrowed features, together with their simple prayers, had a special power in drawing down upon a needy world torrents of mercy and of grace. To the Martins, it seemed that Heaven kissed earth every morning at 5:30 and that kiss lasted all through the day, warming each act with the touch of charity and enlivening each deed with the spirit of sacrifice.
The devout soul realizes that "God hates robbery in the holocaust." What is given to the Lord, must be given without reserve. This also applies to the giving of time. One of the precepts of the decalogue reads thus: "Thou shalt keep holy the Lords Day." These words were deeply engraved upon the fleshy tablets of Louis Martins heart. The thought of serving the Lord by halves or quarters was repulsive to him. Keeping holy the Lords Day meant to Louis Martin total abstinencefrom business transactions of whatever kind. 15 Young and successful jeweller that he was, there were numerous temptations to transgress this divine command. The Martin Jewelry establishment had acquired an enviable reputation in the vicinity of Alencon. On Sundays, the more prominent members of the gentler sex were accustomed to gather before the jewelry shop and examine the unique display of ornaments always to be found in the windows. In vain did they plead with Louis Martin: "Leave the side door at least open; in this way your shop will to all appearances remain closed, while purchasers can come in quietly and you will not lose sales." All the sales in the world could never prevail upon this jeweller to incur the odium of Almighty God by violating the observance of the Lords Day. Holy life is inspired by holy example. The pious traits which we have observed in Louis and Zelie Martin, were partly the result of daily reading of some portion of the Lives of the Saints. Athletes in the race for salvation, champions in the fight for truth, martyrs in the cause of Christthese were the objects of their study, these became the models of their lives. As is to be expected in a family which has ambitions to become like unto the Holy Family of Nazareth, special attention was given to the Blessed Mother of God and St. Joseph. The pages of this book shall reveal how abundantly God blessed this practice of studying the Lives of the Saints in the case of Louis and Zelie Martin.
When the angels sang their good tidings over Bethlehems Crib, the tenor of their song was this: "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will!" Briefly, yet thoroughly, these words sum up the lifes program of the parents of St. Therese. Their single aim was to procure the greater honor and glory of God. Nor was good will lacking to them. Unlike a multitude of so-called "moderns" who shirk the responsibility of parenthood and, therefore, bar children out of their lives, Louis and Zelie Martin looked forward with eager expectation to a large family. It mattered not to them whether God should deem fit to send them boys or girls, provided He would surely bless their home with at least one boy, who might become a priest and a great missionary who might carry Gods Holy Gospel throughout the length and breadth of the world.This manifestation of good will was amply rewarded by the God Who never thrns a deaf ear to persistent and confident prayer. In the course of time, the Creator sent nine cherubs to breathe the saintly atmosphere of the Martin home and to fill it with heavenly delights. Four of these precious gifts of God were recalled to Heaven by death, when they were in their early infancy. Their names were: Marie-Helene, Marie-Joseph-Louis, Marie-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste and Marie-Melanie-Therese. They had entered and departed from this world before our Little Saint was born, but their angelic spirits hovered closely over her all during the course of her earthly existence, as shall be shown in a later chapter of this book.
17 At the time of Theseres birth, four sisters survived to welcome the "Little Queen." (This title was given to Therese by her father immediately after her arrival.) You may be interested to know their ages at the time of the advent of the Saint. Marie was 13 years; Pauline, 11½ ; Leonie, 9; and Celine, 3½. With Little Therese, the family was complete; she was the last, though not the least jewel, to be set into the precious picture of that happy home.
THE "QUEENS" ARRIVALON THE very day of the birth of Therese (January 2, 1873), a little boy was singing a ballad in the street leading to the Martin home. When he came to the birthplace of the Saint he handed in his song, the last line of which read as follows:
Thou shalt be a Rose one day. This incident is largely responsible for the name which was given to Therese from her very earliest days: the Little Flower. Truly, the delicate "little missionary" resembled a tiny plant in the frailty of its constitution. It was thought best to hasten the preparations for Baptism, lest perhaps the newcomer might die without the precious grace which that life-giving Sacrament imparts. The baptismal ceremony took place in the church of Notre Dame on the afternoon of January 4, when Thèrese was but two days old. Marie, her eldest sister, was chosen as godmother. The privilege of officiating on this memorable occasion fell upon Abbe Lucien-Victor Dumaine, a priest of the parish of Notre-Dame and a personal friend of the family.
Tu seras Rose un jour.
19 Years later, this same priest was to be one of the witnesses in the Process of Beatification of this child whom he baptized that day, under the name of Marie-Francois-Therese Martin. The countryside of Alencon was clad with snow when they carried the babe back from the font to the cradle in the home of Louis Martin. Snow was a beautiful symbol of the spotlessness of her soul; snow was to have a special attraction for her throughout her subsequent life.
The early infancy of little Therese was a period of trying anxieties for her tender parents. Scarcely had the waters of Baptism dried upon the brow of the tiny one, than her health began to decline rapidly. It would seem that the four darling cherubs who had preceded her to Heaven, were beckoning to her and calling her to their realm of bliss. At the advice of the family doctor, it was decided that Therese be entrusted to the care of a healthy nurse. Mme. Martin placed full confidence in a certain Rose Taillé, better known as "little Rose," who had already nursed one of her children. No better choice could be made. When Rose arrived at the Martin home, the babe was battling, if that term might be used, for its last breath. The nurse shook her head discouragingly, as if it were already too late. The mother of the "little Flower," however, had a tender devotion to Saint Joseph, special patron of hopeless cases. In her room she had an image of the Spouse of Mary and the Foster-father of Jesus. Confidently she threw herself on her knees before the statue and pleaded for the recovery of her ninth child.
20 Saint Joseph came quickly to her aid. The child, who but a few moments previously had given every sign that death was impending, was now gaining sufficiently to warrant her transfer to the humble farmhouse of Rose Taillé. Mothers of large families have little recess from worries and anxieties. Scarcely had little Therese been confided to the arms of the motherly "Rose" than Marie, the eldest daughter of the Martin family, was attacked by typhoid fever and was obliged to leave school at Le Mans. Between her fretful vigils at the bedside of this elder patient and her painstaking directions of the lace-making industry, there was little room for Mme. Martin to inquire concerning the condition of her "little Flower," who was now safely cared for by the faithful farmers wife. Louis Martin was deeply concerned about the precarious condition of his youngest and his eldest daughters. He left nothing undone in a material way to secure the attention of the best physicians to minister to their needs. However, his greatest hope lay in the power of prayerprayer accompanied by more than ordinary sacrifices. Saint that he was, he saw nothing heroic in the pilgrimage which he made on May 5, 1873, for the recovery of Marie. This journey took him a distance of six leagues on foot to the ridge of Chaumont, where he pleaded with the Physician of all physicians to spare the lives of his two sick daughters. The distance of the pilgrimage and the difficulties of the climb were accentuated by the fact that Louis Martin went fasting and returned fasting.
|St. Therese of the Child Jesus.|
He was not the man to read about the fortitude of others without practising it to a heroic degree in his own life.Providence listened benignly to the supplications of these pious parents. By the sweet alchemy of prayer, the two patients were kissed back to "out-of-danger" condition within the space of only a few months. Thereses recovery must, in some measure, be attributed to the healthy atmosphere which she breathed constantly in her rural surroundings. "When the farmers wife was going to the fields, she placed Therese on some straw in the bottom of her barrow and thus wheeled her along the grassy paths through the clover and flowers to the spot where her husband was working. When milking-time came she carried the little one with her in her apron, so that Therese lived constantly in the open air amidst the fragrance of the fresh hay and the scent of ripe corn. In this way she became browned by the sun, and grew daily more robust from inhaling the chemicals given, out by the harvest-bearing fields." 22 V. CHILDHOOD TRAITS EVERY MOTHER LOVES to record the trifling incidents which make up the early days of her childs infancy. The cradle days of Little Therese might be chronicled in much the same way as the early days of any other child, with this exception, that at an unusually early date there seemed to be very pronounced manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her soul. On November 30, 1873, when the Little Flower was only 11 months old, her mother wrote the following words to Pauline who was then at the Visitation Convent: "I expect that she will be able to walk unaided in five or six more weeks. You have only to put her standing beside a chair, and she remains quite steadynever falls. She takes her own little precautions to accomplish this and appears very intelligent. She is continually smiling; she has the expression of one who is predestined." The first words uttered by this chosen child were addressed to the "good Jesus." She was only twenty-two months old, when God saw fit to loosen that tongue which was to preach to the world the fascinating doctrine of the "little way" to Heaven.
23 Unexpectedly this infant of scarcely two years gave expression to some very surprising wishes of her heart. On one occasion, she threw her arms around her mother and told her that she wished her to die. "Oh, how I wish you would die, my poor little mother." When the mother inquired concerning the reason for such an unheard of wish, the tiny Saint answered: "It is that you may go to Heaven, since you say that we must die to go there." On earth Therese found her Heaven in church. She loved to watch the sacred functions, to listen to the inspiring chant, to breathe forth her simple prayers together with the slowly dying candles that burned beside the little home of Jesus in the tabernacle. She was drawn to Jesus as by a magnet, so much so, that she would often run away to church amid torrents of rain. It would be wrong for us to suppose that there was not a trace of childish mischief in the early days of the Little Flower. The following letter written by Mme. Martin to Pauline, who was studying at the Visitation Convent at Le Mans, tells us something of the roguish disposition of the Therese of three years: "She (Therese) is extraordinarily outspoken, and it is charming to see her run after me to confess her childish faults: Mamma, I gave Celine a push; I slapped her once; but I will not do it again. The moment she has done anything mischievous, everyone must know. Yesterday, without meaning to do so, she tore off a small piece of wall paper; you would have been sorry for her she wanted to tell her father immediately.
24 When he came home four hours later and everyone else had forgotten about it, she ran at once to Marie, saying: Tell Papa that I tore the paper, and she waited like a criminal for the sentence. There is an idea in her little head, that if she accuses herself she will be the more readily forgiven." Tersely and tenderly, Therese in her Autobiography tells us of the affection she entertained at that early age for her saintly sisters. "I listened attentively while she (Marie) taught Celine, and I was very good and obedient so as to obtain the privilege of remaining in the room during lessons. Marie loaded me with little presents which, trifling though they were, afforded me endless pleasure." This passage reveals to us the innate thirst of the Little Flower for the dew of instruction in religious matters. "When I was just learning to talk, Mamma would ask me: What are you thinking about? and the invariable answer was Pauline. " It was Paulines example that inspired her tiny sister with the hope of one day becoming a nun. From the moment that wish took possession of her little heart it never more departed. "Dear Leonie also had a warm place in my heart and my great love for her was fully returned. In the evening, when she came from school, she used to take care of me while everyone else went for a walk, and it seems as though I can still hear the sweet songs she sang to lull me to sleep. I remember perfectly the day of her First Communion, and I remember her companion, the poor child whom Mamma dressed, according to the touching custom of the well-to-do families in Alencon.
25 This child did not leave Leonie throughout all that happy day, and at the grand dinner in the evening she sat in the place of honor. I was too small to stay up for the feast, but, thanks to Papas goodness, I had my share in it, for when the dessert came around, he himself brought his little Queen a piece of the First Communion cake." The nuns hand that wrote these lines, was fully conscious of the fact that things and persons of bygone years grow brighter as the years gild them. Almost in the same breath with her praises of Marie, Pauline and Leonie, the Little Flower pays noblest tribute to Celine, the companion of her childhood. "My memories of her are so abundant that I do not know how to choose. We understood each other perfectly, though I was much the more forward and lively, and by far the less simple of the two." To have been called the companion of a saintwhat an honored title and who could bear it more deservedly than Celine! She used every opportunity that presented itself to form the heart of her sister-playmate according to the desires of the Sacred Heart of the Child Jesus.
To Therese, childhood was a land of toys, a land of fairies, a realm of play, as it is to every other normal youngster. The visitor at Lisieux today may see the very objects which were used by the Little Flower during that simple though sacred state of her early girlhood. Her checker-board, her miniature set of dishes, her tiny doll bedthese and others are carefully preserved behind a large glass window in the reliquary of the convent where she maintained her simplicity and her innocence to her very dying breath.
Possibly due to her frail health, Therese indulged very little in the more rugged pastimes of the outdoors. She preferred to spend her time making colored mixtures with seeds and the bark of trees. "If the color turned out pretty, I would pour some of the liquid into a dainty little cup and coax Papa to taste. He would at once stop his work and with a smile pretend to drink."
Her fondness for color probably explains to some extent her special liking for flowers. Whenever her father took her on one of her favorite excursions into the country, Therese returned almost smothered with bouquets of wild-flowers which she had gathered here and there along the rustic paths. Flowers spoke to her silently, yet most powerfully, of the great God Who created every lovely thing that blooms. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin . . . Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these."
From these cursory glimpses into the babyhood days of the Saint, we can see that there was a distinctly human touch about everything that she did and said. Falsifiers of the truth would have us believe that saints keep their heads forever turned toward the stars. It is true that the very first word which Little Therese learned to read unaided was "cieux" which means "heaven." She loved to converse with the Saints and particularly with Mary, the Queen of Saints.
Nevertheless, she was practical enough, even at her tender age, to realize that the eternal cornpanionship of the inhabitants of Heaven could only be gained by charitable dealing with those souls on earth into whose sphere it has pleased God to place us. It is interesting to know that her Catechism, which is carefully preserved at Lisieux, is most pronouncedly thumbed and ragged at the page on which is found this question: "What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?" The answer to that question reads: "To love your neighbor as yourself means to do unto others as you would have others do unto you." It would appear that this was the Little Flowers favorite page in that book, which played such an important part in her religious training.
THE THORN OF THORNSTHE KEY to Thereses disposition at the age of three might be found in her own beautiful words: "Truly everything on earth smiled on me; I found flowers strewn at each step, and my naturally happy disposition helped to make life bright. But a new era was about to dawn. I was to be the spouse of Our Lord at so tender an age that it was necessary I should suffer from childhood."
The first and possibly one of the most piercing thorns that penetrated the heart of the Little Flower, was the death of her darling mother. In her early years, Mme. Martin had injured herself seriously against the corner of a table. The result was a lasting swelling in her breast. It was not characteristic of this noble lady to complain. She concealed the little pain which attended the swelling in the beginning. In the course of time, however, the malady developed into a fibrous tumor which gave the mother of this large family considerable concern. For more than sixteen years she succeeded in hiding her condition from her family. With a smile on her face and a prayer of resignation in her heart, she went about the manifold duties of wife, mother and lace-maker.
29 Gradually, however, the dread disease made itself evident upon the features and the frame of this saintly mother. When once her failing condition was detected, the members of her family prevailed upon her to be examined by a doctor. The physician wrote out a prescription and handed it to the patient. Receiving it into her hands, she queried: "Of what use will it be?" The doctor answered in a low voice, "It is useless; I give it to patients to please them."
Thus, the condition of Mme. Martin was officially declared hopeless as far as earthly remedies were concerned.As is to be expected, the stricken mother had to give up her lace industry. Throughout the length and breadth of the land she had become reputed as one of the most skillful manufacturers of Point d Alencon lace, but she had woven a finer fabric in Heaven. No earthly piece of lace-work could begin to compare with the rich and lasting masterpiece which she had carefully, slowly and surely fitted together out of a million motherly sacrifices, firmly stitched together by prayers and works of mercy. She would soon be at the end of her weaving. As a final token of tribute to the powerful Queen of Heaven, Mme. Martin decided to undertake a pilgrimage to Lourdes to implore the Lady of the Grotto to restore her to health, if that were the will of God. On June 18, 1877, she started out with Marie, Pauline and Leonie for the sacred spot where the Blessed Mother appeared to Little Bernadette. With prayers and tears, her three daughters stormed Heaven during that pilgrimage for the cure of their beloved mother. 30
Shall we say that their prayers were in vain? Worldlings, who understand not the nature of prayer, might say so. For reasons hidden from this world, Almighty God permitted the patients condition to become worse so that when she returned to Alencon, a marked decline was noticed.During the long and painful days that followed, the Little Flowers mother placed herself fully under the charge of the Blessed Mother of God. In a letter to her brother, she wrote: "My strength is at an end.. . . If the Holy Virgin does not cure me, then my term of life is over; God wills that I find a resting-place elsewhere than on this earth." Ten days after she wrote this letter, Mme. Martin received the Last Sacraments, and two days later, August 28, 1877, half an hour past midnight, her merit-laden soul winged its way heavenward to receive the reward of an exemplary mother. It was the first time that Therese was confronted with a corpse or a coffin. Years later, in reminiscing on this event, she wrote: "Once I found myself alone in front of the coffin, which had been placed upright in the passage, and for a long time I stood there lost in contemplation. I had never seen one before, but I knew quite well what it meant. I was so small that I had to lift up my head to see its whole length, and it seemed a huge and melancholy thing." ********
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