LT 201 - To P Roulland - November 1, 1896.

LT 201                 From Thérèse to P. Roulland.

November 1, 1896


Carmel of Lisieux                                         November 1, 1896



Your interesting letter, which arrived under the patronage of All Saints, gives me great joy. I thank you for treating me as a real sister.

With the grace of Jesus I hope to make myself worthy of this title so dear to me.

I thank you, too, for having sent us The Soul of a Missionary, this book has interested me deeply. It allowed me to follow you dur­ing your distant journey. The Life of Père Nempon is perfectly titl­ed, it really reveals the soul of a missionary, or rather the soul of all apostles truly worthy of this name.

You ask me (in the letter written at Marseilles) to pray to Our Lord to remove from you the cross of being named director in a seminary or even that of coming back to France. I understand that this prospect is not pleasing to you; with my whole heart I am beg­ging Jesus that He see fit to allow you to carry out the laborious apostolate such as your soul always dreamed about. However, I add with you: "May God's will be done." In it alone is rest to be found; outside this lovable will we would do nothing either for Jesus or for souls.

I cannot tell you, Brother, how happy I am to see you so totally abandoned into your superiors' hands. It seems to me it is a certain proof that one day my desires will be realized, that is, that you will be a great Saint.

Allow me to confide a secret to you that was just revealed to me by the sheet of paper on which are written the memorable dates of your life.

On September 8, 1890, your missionary vocation was saved by Mary, Queen of Apostles and Martyrs; on that same day, a little Carmelite became the spouse of the King of heaven. Bidding an everlasting adieu to the world, she had one goal, to save souls, especially the souls of apostles. From Jesus, her divine Spouse, she asked particularly for an apostolic soul; unable to be a priest, she wanted that in her place a priest may receive the graces of the Lord, that he have the same aspirations, the same desires as herself....

Brother, you know the unworthy Carmelite who offered this prayer. Do you not think, as I do, that our union confirmed on the day of your priestly ordination began on September 8? ... I believed I would meet only in heaven the apostle, the brother whom I had asked from Jesus; but this Beloved Saviour, raising a little the mysterious veil that hides the secrets of eternity, has seen fit to give me in this exile the consolation of knowing the brother of my soul, of working with him for the salvation of poor infidels.

Oh! how great is my gratitude when I consider the kind attention of Jesus!.. . What is He reserving for us in heaven if here below His love dispenses surprises so delightful?

More than ever, I understand that the smallest events of our life are conducted by God; He is the One who makes us desire and who grants our desires.... When our good Mother suggested to me that I become your helper, I admit, Brother, that I hesitated." Consider­ing the virtues of the holy Carmelites around me, I thought that our Mother would have better served your spiritual interests by choos­ing for you a Sister other than myself; the thought alone that Jesus would have no regard for my imperfect works but for my good will made me accept the honor of sharing in your apostolic works. I did not know then that Our Lord Himself had chosen me, He who uses the weakest instruments to work marvels!... I did not know that for six years I had a brother who was preparing himself to become a missionary; now that this brother is really His apostle, Jesus reveals it to me in order no doubt to increase in my soul the desire of loving Him and making Him loved.

Do you know, Brother, that if the Lord continues to answer my prayer, you will obtain a favor which your humility prevents you from seeking? This incomparable favor, you guess it, is martyrdom....

Yes, I have the hope that after long years spent in apostolic works, after having given Jesus love for love, life for life, you will give Him, too, blood for blood....

When writing these lines, I am reminded that they will reach you in the month of January, the month during which we exchange happy wishes. I believe that those of your little sister will be the only ones of their kind.... To tell the truth, the world would treat as folly wishes like these; however, for us the world no longer lives, and "our conversation is already in heaven," our only desire is to resemble our adorable Master, whom the world did not wish to know because He emptied Himself, taking on the form and nature of a slave. Oh, Brother! how blessed you are to follow so closely the example of Jesus.... When thinking you have dressed yourself in the clothes of the Chinese, I am naturally thinking of the Saviour clothing Himself in our poor humanity and becoming like one of us in order to redeem our souls for eternity.

You will perhaps find me really childish, but it does not matter. I confess that I committed a sin of envy when reading that your hair was going to be cut and replaced by a Chinese braid. It is not the latter I desire but very simply a little tress of the hair now become useless. You will no doubt ask me, laughing, what I will do with it? Well, it is very simple, this hair will be a relic for me when you will be in heaven, the palm of martyrdom in your hand. You find, no doubt, that I am going about this far in advance, but I know it is the only means of reaching my goal, for your little sister (who is known only as such by Jesus) will certainly be forgotten in the distribution of your relics. I am sure you are laughing at me, but this does not matter. If you consent to pay for the little amusement I am giving you with "the hair of a future Martyr," I shall be well recompensed.

On December 25 I will not fail to send my angel so that he may place my intentions near the host that will be consecrated by you. It is from the depths of my heart that I thank you for offering for Our Mother and me your Mass at dawn; when you are at the altar, we shall be singing Matins for Christmas which precede the Mid­night Mass.

Brother, you are not mistaken when saying that no doubt my in­tentions would be: "to thank Jesus or the day of graces among all days." It is not on this day that I received the grace of my religious vocation. Our Lord, willing for Himself alone my first glance, saw fit to ask my heart in the cradle, if I can so express myself.

The night of Christmas 1886 was, it is true, decisive for my voca­tion, but to name it more clearly I must call it: the night of my con­version. On that blessed night, about which it is written that it sheds light even on the delights of God Himself, Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood. He transformed me in such a way that I no longer recognized myself. Without this change I would have had to remain for years in the world. Saint Teresa, who said to her daughters: "I want you to be women in nothing, but that in everything you may equal strong men,'" would not have wanted to acknowledge me as her child if the Lord had not clothed me in His divine strength, if He had not Himself armed me for war.

I promise you, Brother, to recommend to Jesus in a very special way the young girl about whom you speak to me and who is meeting with obstacles to her vocation. I sympathize sincerely with her suf­fering, knowing by experience how bitter it is to be unable to res­pond immediately to God's call. I hope she is not obliged like me to go even to Rome.... No doubt you do not know that your sister had the audacity to speak to the Pope? ' ... It is true, however, and if I had not had this audacity, perhaps I would be still in the world.

Jesus has said: "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and only the violent take it away.’' It was the same for me concerning the kingdom of Carmel. Before becoming the prisoner of Jesus, I had to travel very far to take hold of the prison that I preferred to all the palaces of this earth. I had no desire to make a trip for my per­sonal pleasure, and when my incomparable father offered to take me to Jerusalem if I wished to postpone my entrance for two or three months, I did not hesitate (in spite of the natural attraction which was drawing me to visit the places sanctified by the Saviour's life) to choose repose in the shadow of Him for whom I was longing." I understood that really one day spent in the Lord's house was worth more than a thousand anywhere else.

Perhaps, Brother, you want to know what obstacle I was en­countering in the accomplishment of my vocation; this obstacle was none other than my youth. Our good Father Superior formally refused to receive me before I was twenty-one, saying that a child of fifteen was not capable of knowing to what she was committing herself. His conduct was prudent, and I do not doubt that, in trying me, he accomplished the will of God, who willed to have me con­quer the fortress of Carmel at the point of the sword; perhaps, too, Jesus permitted the demon to hinder a vocation which must not have been, I believe, to the liking of that villain deprived of love as our Holy Mother called him; fortunately, all his tricks turned out to his shame, they served only to render a child's victory more strik­ing. If I wanted to write you all the details of the combat I had to sustain, I would have to have much time, ink, and paper. Recounted by a clever pen, these details would have some interest for you, I believe, but my pen cannot give any charms to a long recital, so I ask your pardon for having already perhaps bored you.

You promise me, Brother, to continue each morning to say at the altar: "My God, enkindle my sister with Your love." I am deeply grateful to you for this, and I have no difficulty in assuring you that your conditions are and always will be accepted. All I ask Jesus or myself, I ask also for you; when I offer my weak love to the Belov­ed, I allow myself to offer yours at the same time. Like Joshua, you are fighting on the plain, and I am your little Moses," and incessantly my heart if lifted to heaven to obtain the victory. Oh, Brother, how you would have to be pitied if Jesus Himself were not to hold up the arms of your Moses!... But with the help of the prayer you are making each day for me to the divine Prisoner of love, I hope you will never have to be pitied and that, after this life during which we shall have sown together in tears, we shall be joyful, carrying back our sheaves in our hands.

I loved the little sermon very much that you addressed to our good Mother, exhorting her to remain on earth; it is not long, but as you say there is nothing to answer. I see you will not have much trou­ble in convincing your listeners when you preach, and I hope an abun­dance of souls will be gathered and offered by you to the Lord. I notice I am at the end of my paper; this forces me to stop my scrib­bling. I want, however, to tell you that all your anniversaries will be faithfully celebrated by me. July 3 will be particularly dear to me since on that day you received Jesus or the first time and on this same date I received Jesus from your hand and assisted at your first Mass in Carmel.

Bless your unworthy sister, Brother.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus rel. carm. ind.

I recommend to your prayers a young seminarian who would like to be a missionary; his vocation has just been shaken by his year of military service.



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