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Ms A 51r

[51r°] speak about my vocation to him until I was seventeen. It was contrary to human prudence, he said, to have a child of fifteen enter Carmel. This Carmelite life was, in the eyes of many, a life of mature reflection, and it would be doing a great wrong to the religious life to allow an inexperienced child to embrace it. [5] Everybody would be talking about it, etc., etc. He even said that for him to decide to allow me to leave would require a miracle. I saw all reasoning with him was useless and so I left, my heart plunged into the most profound bitterness. My only consolation was prayer. I begged Jesus to perform the miracle demanded, since at this price only I’d be able to answer His call.

[10] A long time passed by before I dared speak to him again. It was very difficult for me to go to his home, and he himself seemed to be no longer considering my vocation. I learned later on that my great sadness influenced him very much. Before allowing any ray of hope to shine in my soul, God willed to send me a painful martyrdom lasting three [15] days. Oh! never had I understood so well as during this trial, the sorrow of Mary and Joseph during their three-day search for the divine Child Jesus. I was in a sad desert, or rather my soul was like a fragile boat delivered up to the mercy of the waves and having no pilot. I knew Jesus was there sleeping in my boat, but the night was so black it was impossible to see Him; nothing gave me any light, [20] not a single flash came to break the dark clouds. No doubt, lightning is a dismal light, but at least if the storm had broken out in earnest I would have been able to see Jesus for one passing moment. But it was night! The dark night of the soul! I felt I was all alone in the garden of Gethsemane like Jesus, and I found no consolation on earth or from heaven; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me. Nature seemed to share in my bitter sadness, for during these three days the sun did not

 

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Ms A 50v

[50v°] my heart poured out itself to him.

Papa seemed to be rejoicing with that joy that comes from a sacrifice already made. He spoke just like a saint, and I’d love to recall his words and write them down, but all I preserved of them is a memory too sacred to be expressed. What I do recall, however, [5] is a symbolic action my dear King performed, not realizing its full meaning. Going up to a low wall, he pointed to some little white flowers, like lilies in miniature, and plucking one of them, he gave it to me, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it to that very day. While I listened I believed I was hearing my own story, [10] so great was the resemblance between what Jesus had done for the little flower and little Thérèse. I accepted it as a relic and noticed that, in gathering it, Papa had pulled all its roots out without breaking them. It seemed destined to live on in another soil more fertile than the tender moss where it had spent its first days. This was really the same [15] action Papa had performed a few moments before when he allowed me to climb Mount Carmel and leave the sweet valley which had witnessed my first steps in this life.

I placed the little white flower in my copy of the Imitation at the chapter entitled: “One must love Jesus above all things,” and there it is still, only its stem [20] has broken close to the roots, and God seems to be saying by this that He’ll soon break the bonds of His little flower, not allowing her to fade away on this earth!

After receiving Papa’s permission, I believed I’d be able to fly to Carmel without any fears, but painful trials were still to prove my vocation. It was with trembling I confided my resolution to Uncle. He showed me great tenderness but did not grant me his permission to leave. He forbade me to

 

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Ms A 50r

[50r°] feeling courageous enough to speak! However, I had to decide. After all, I was going to be fourteen and a half, and six months separated us from the beautiful night of Christmas, the day I was determined to enter, at the very hour I’d received “my grace” the year before. I chose the [5] feast of Pentecost as the day to break the news, all day long begging the apostles to pray for me, to inspire me with the right words. Shouldn’t they help the timid child who was chosen by God to be the apostle of apostles through her prayers and sacrifices in Carmel? I found the opportunity to speak to my dear little Father only in the afternoon after Vespers. He was seated by the well, [10] contemplating the marvels of nature with his hands joined. The sun whose rays had lost their ardor gilded the high tree tops where little birds were joyfully chanting their evening song. Papa’s handsome face had a heavenly expression about it, giving me the feeling that peace flooded his heart. Without saying a word, I sat down by his side, my eyes already wet with tears. He [15] gazed at me tenderly, and taking my head he placed it on his heart, saying: “What’s the matter, my little Queen? Tell me.” Then rising as though to hide his own emotion, he walked while still holding my head on his heart.Through my tears, I confided my desire to enter Carmel and soon his tears mingled with mine. He didn’t say one word to [20] turn me from my vocation, simply contenting himself with the statement that I was still very young to make such a serious decision. I defended myself so well that, with Papa’s simple and direct character, he was soon convinced my desire was God’s will, and in his deep faith he cried out that God was giving him a great honor in asking his children from him; we continued our walk for a long time and, encouraged by the kindness with which my incomparable Father received my confidences,

 

 

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Ms A 49v

[49v°] If I hadn’t had a vocation, I would have been stopped from the beginning, so many obstacles did I receive when trying to answer Jesus’ call. I didn’t want to speak to Céline about my desire to enter so young and this caused me much suffering, for it was difficult for me to hide anything from her.

[5] This suffering, however, didn’t last long; soon my dear little sister learned of my determination and, far from turning me away from it, she courageously accepted the sacrifice God was asking of her. To understand how great it was, one would have to know how very close we were. It was, so to speak, the same soul giving us life. For some months we’d [10] enjoyed together the most beautiful life young girls could dream about. Everything around us corresponded with our tastes; we were given the greatest liberty; I would say our life on earth was the ideal of happiness.

Hardly had we the time to taste this ideal of happiness when it was necessary to turn away from it freely, and my dear Céline did not rebel for one instant. And still it wasn’t she [15] whom Jesus was calling first, and she could have complained, for having the same vocation as I, it was her right to leave first! But as in the time of the martyrs, those who remained in prison joyfully gave the kiss of peace to their brothers who were leaving first for combat in the arena, consoling themselves with the thought that perhaps they were reserved for even greater combats, thus Céline [20] allowed her Thérèse to leave and she stayed for the glorious and bloody struggle to which Jesus had destined her as the privileged one of His love!

Céline became, then, the confidante of my struggles and sufferings, taking the same part as though it were a question of her own vocation. From her I had no fear of opposition. I didn’t know what steps to take to announce it to Papa. How should I speak to him about parting from his Queen, he who’d just sacrificed his three eldest? Ah! what interior struggles I went through before

 

 

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Ms A 49r

[49r°] that Jesus showered His graces so lavishly upon His little flower, He, who cried out in His mortal life: “I thank thee, Father, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to babes,” willed to have His mercy shine out in me. Because I was little [5] and weak He lowered Himself to me, and He instructed me secretly in the things of His love. Ah! had the learned who spent their life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection’s secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit!

[10] As St. John of the Cross writes in his canticle:

                 On that glad night,
                 in secret, for no one saw me,
                 nor did I look at anything,
                 with no other light or guide
                 than the one that burned in my heart.
                 This guided me
                 more surely than the light of noon
                 to where he was awaiting me
                 — him I knew so well —
                 there in a place where no one appeared.

This place was Carmel. Before “resting in the shadow of him whom I desired,” I was to pass through many trials, but the [15] divine call was so strong that had I been forced to pass through flames, I would have done it out of love for Jesus.

I found only one soul to encourage me in my vocation, that of my dear Mother. My heart found a faithful echo in hers, and without her, perhaps, I would not have reached the blessed shore which received her five years before on its soil permeated with the [20] heavenly dew. Yes, I was separated from you for five years, dear Mother, and I believed I’d lost you forever; at the moment of trial your hand pointed out the way I should follow. I needed this help, for my visits to Carmel had become more and more painful, and I was unable to speak of my desire to enter without feeling opposed. Marie, thinking I was too young, did everything possible to prevent my entering; and you, dear Mother, to prove me, sometimes tried to slacken my ardor.

 

 

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