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New Release! Chant Compendium 8 with beautiful Gregorian chant

The Autobiography of St. Therese the Little Flower

The Story of a Soul
Available as a book or MP3-CD

from Chapter 4
Growing Up

As I was no good at games, I would have spent most of my time reading; luckily, I had visible guardian angels who guided me here and chose the sort of books I needed -- books which nourished my mind and heart, as well as keeping me amused. I was only allowed a certain time for this favorite occupation, and it often meant great self-sacrifice, for I used to put my book away the moment time was up, even if I were halfway through a most fascinating passage. I must admit that, when I read certain tales of chivalry, I did not always grasp the realities of life; in my enthusiasm I wanted to do all the patriotic things the heroines of France had done, especially Joan of Arc.

It was at this time that I was given what I have always considered one of my life's greatest graces, for God did not enlighten me then in the way He does now. He taught me that the only glory which matters is the glory which lasts forever and that one does not have to perform shining deeds to win that, but to hide one's acts of virtue from others, and even from oneself, so that "the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing." (Cf. Matt. 6:3). I was sure that I was born to be great and began to wonder how I should set about winning my glory; then it was revealed to me in my heart that my glory would lie in becoming a Saint, though this glory would be hidden on earth.

This aspiration may seem presumptuous, considering how imperfect I was and still am, even after so many years in religion; yet I am daringly confident that one day I shall become a great Saint. I am not relying on my own merits, because I haven't any. I hope in Him who is Virtue and Sanctity itself; He alone, content with my frail efforts, will lift me up to Himself, clothe me with His own merits and make me a Saint.

I did not realize in those days that one had to go through much suffering to become a Saint, but God soon brought this home to me by the trials I have told you about already.

But to go back to my story. Three months after I was cured, Father took me away for a delightful holiday, and I began to see something of the world. All around me was joy and happiness. I was entertained, pampered and admired; in fact, for a single fortnight my path was strewn with flowers. But those words of the Book of Wisdom are only too true: "The bewitching of vanity overturneth the innocent mind." (Cf. Wis. 4:12) When you are only ten, your heart is fascinated very easily, and I must admit that I found this kind of life charming. The world is able to combine so well the search for pleasure with the service of God, forgetting death, yet it has come to so many rich and happy young people I used to know. My mind goes back to their enchanting homes, and I can't help wondering what use to them now are those chateaux and estates where they enjoyed all the world could offer, and I realize that "all is vanity save loving God and serving Him alone." (Imit. 1:1,3).

I think Jesus wanted me to see something of the world before He came to me for the first time, so that I might choose more surely that path on which I would promise to follow Him.

My First Communion will always be a perfect memory, and I am sure I could not have been better prepared than I was. Do you remember the wonderful little book you gave me three months before the great day? It was set out so beautifully and prepared me surely step by step; even though I had been thinking for so long about my First Communion, I had to renew my ardor and fill my heart with freshly gathered flowers. So every day, I made many sacrifices and acts of love, which were transformed into flowers; some were violets and roses, others cornflowers and daisies or forget-me-nots. I wanted all the flowers on earth to cradle Jesus in my heart. Marie took your place, and I spent hours every evening listening to all the lovely things she said to me. She passed her fine and generous spirit into mine, and as warriors of old used to teach their sons the use of arms, so she trained me for life's battle, stirring up my fervor by showing me the glorious palm of victory.

She told me, too, about the immortal riches one can amass so easily day by day, and of the foolishness of trampling underfoot the treasures one can make one's own by merely stooping to pick them up. She was so eloquent! I wished others could have heard her too, for in my simplicity I was sure she could have converted the most hardened sinners and made them leave the riches that will fade for those of Heaven.

I would have loved to be able to meditate, but Marie thought I was devout enough already and only let me say prayers. One of the mistresses at the Abbey asked me one day what I did with myself when I went home to Les Buissonnets. Shyly, I told her: "Sometimes I go and hide myself in a little corner of my room which I can shut off with my bed curtains, and...just think." She laughed and asked: "But what do you think about?" "About God," I told her; "about how short life is, and about eternity...and...well...I just think." This little incident was not forgotten, and she often used to remind me of it and ask me if I still "thought". I realize now that I was really meditating, while the Divine Master was gently at work in my soul.

The three months of preparation for my First Communion passed quietly, and I soon found myself in retreat at the Abbey as a full boarder. It was a wonderful retreat. I do not think anyone can taste such happiness, except in a religious house. There were not many of us, so we could all have individual attention, and I could never express how grateful I was for the way our mistresses mothered us. I do not know why, but they seemed to watch over me more tenderly than over the others. The first mistress used to come every night with her little lamp and gently draw aside the curtains of my bed; then she would kiss me very tenderly on my forehead. She showed so much affection for me that one evening, touched by her tenderness, I said to her: "O Madame, I am so fond of you. I want to tell you a secret - a big secret." I had been hiding your precious little book from Carmel under my pillow, and now I drew this out to show her, my eyes shining. She opened it very carefully and then told me how lucky I was. Several times during my retreat I realized that there were very few motherless children who were looked after as tenderly as I was at that age.

I listened most attentively to Fr. Domin's conferences and took very careful notes, but I did not put down any of my own thoughts because I was sure that I should remember them quite easily, and so I did.

Taken from The Story of a Soul by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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