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The Story Of A Soul
The Autobiography of St. Therese Of Lisieux

LETTERS TO SISTER FRANCES TERESA[1]




I

August 13, 1893.

DEAR LITTLE SISTER,--At last your desires are satisfied. Like the dove sent forth from the ark, you have been unable to find a spot on earth whereon to rest, and have long been on the wing seeking to re-enter the blessed abode where your heart had for ever fixed its home. Jesus has kept you waiting, but at last, touched by the plaintive cry of His dove, He has put forth His Divine Hand, and, taking hold of it, has set it in His Heart--that sanctuary of His Love.

It is quite a spiritual joy, this joy of mine. For I shall never look upon you again, never hear your voice as I outpour my heart into yours. Yet I know that earth is but a halting-place to us who journey towards a Heavenly Home. What matter if the routes we follow lie apart? Our goal is the same--that Heaven where we shall meet, no more to be separated. There we shall taste for ever the sweets of our earthly home. We shall have much to tell one another when this exile is ended. Speech here below is so inadequate, but a single glance will be enough for perfect understanding in our home beyond; and I believe that our happiness will be greater than if we had never been parted here.

Meanwhile we must live by sacrifice. Without it there would be no merit in the religious life. As someone told us in a conference: "The reason why the forest oak raises its head so high is because, hemmed in on all sides, it wastes no sap in putting forth branches underneath, but towers aloft. Thus in the religious life the soul, hedged in all around by the rule and by the practice of community life, of necessity finds there a means of lifting a high head towards Heaven."

Dearest sister, pray for your little Thérèse that she may draw profit from her exile on earth and from the plentiful means granted her of meriting Heaven.


II

January, 1895.

DEAR LITTLE SISTER,--How fruitful for Heaven has been the year that is gone! . . . Our dear Father has seen that which the eye of man cannot see, he has heard the minstrelsy of the angels . . . now his heart understands, and his soul enjoys "the things which God hath prepared for those who love Him."[2] . . . Our turn will come, and it is full sweet to think our sails are set towards the Eternal Shore.

Do you not find, as I do, that our beloved Father's death has drawn us nearer to Heaven? More than half of our loved ones already enjoy the Vision of God, and the five who remain in exile will follow soon. This thought of the shortness of life gives me courage, and helps me to put up with the weariness of the journey. What matters a little toil upon earth? We pass . . . "We have not here a lasting city."[3]

Think of your Thérèse during this month consecrated to the Infant Jesus, and beg of Him that she may always remain a very little child. I will offer the same prayer for you, because I know your desires, and that humility is your favourite virtue.

Which Thérèse will be the more fervent? . . . She who will be the more humble, the more closely united to Jesus, and the more faithful in making love the mainspring of every action. We must not let slip one single occasion of sacrifice, everything has such value in the religious life . . . Pick up a pin from a motive of love, and you may thereby convert a soul. Jesus alone can make our deeds of such worth, so let us love Him with every fibre of our heart.


III

July 12, 1896.

MY DEAR LITTLE LÉONIE,--I should have answered your letter last Sunday if it had been given to me, but you know that, being the youngest, I run the risk of not seeing letters for some considerable time after my sisters, and occasionally not at all. I only read yours on Friday, so forgive my delay.

You are right--Jesus is content with a tender look or a sigh of love. For my part, I find it quite easy to practise perfection, now that I realise it only means making Jesus captive through His Heart. Look at a little child who has just vexed its mother, either by giving way to temper or by disobedience. If it hides in a corner and is sulky, or if it cries for fear of being punished, its mother will certainly not forgive the fault. But should it run to her with its little arms outstreteched, and say; "Kiss me, Mother; I will not do it again!" what mother would not straightway clasp her child lovingly to her heart, and forget all it had done? . . . She knows quite well that her little one will repeat the fault--no matter, her darling will escape all punishment so long as it makes appeal to her heart.

Even when the law of fear was in force, before Our Lord's coming, the prophet Isaias said--speaking in the name of the King of Heaven: "Can a woman forget her babe? . . . And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee."[4] What a touching promise! We who live under the law of Love, shall we not profit by the loving advances made by our Spouse? How can anybody fear Him Who allows Himself to be made captive "with one hair of our neck"?[5]

Let us learn to keep Him prisoner--this God, the Divine Beggar of love. By telling us that a single hair can work this wonder, He shows us that the smallest actions done for His Love are those which charm His Heart. If it were necessary to do great things, we should be deserving of pity, but we are happy beyond measure, because Jesus lets Himself be led captive by the smallest action. . . . With you, dear Léonie, little sacrifices are never lacking. Is not your life made up of them? I rejoice to see you in presence of such wealth, especially when I remember that you know how to make profit thereby, not only for yourself but likewise for poor sinners. It is so sweet to help Jesus to save the souls which He has ransomed at the price of His Precious Blood, and which only await our help to keep them from the abyss.

It seems to me that if our sacrifices take Jesus captive, our joys make Him prisoner too. All that is needful to attain this end is, that instead of giving ourselves over to selfish happiness, we offer to our Spouse the little joys He scatters in our path, to charm our hearts and draw them towards Him.

You ask for news of my health. Well, my cough has quite disappeared. Does that please you? It will not prevent Our Lord from taking me to Himself whensoever He wishes. And I need not prepare for that journey, since my whole endeavour is to remain as a little child. Jesus Himself must pay all its expenses, as well as the price of my admission to Heaven.

Good-bye, dearest one, pray to Him without fail for the last and least of your sisters.


IV

July 17, 1897.

MY DEAR LÉONIE,--I am so pleased to be able to write to you again. Some days ago I thought I should never again have this consolation, but it seems God wishes to prolong somewhat the time of my exile. This does not trouble me--I would not enter Heaven one moment sooner through my own will. The only real happiness on earth is to strive always to think "how goodly is the chalice"[6] that Jesus give us. Yours is indeed a goodly one, dear Léonie. If you wish to be a Saint--and it will not be hard--keep only one end in view: give pleasure to Jesus, and bind yourself more closely to Him.

Good-bye, my dear sister, I should wish the thought of my entering Heaven to fill you with joy, because I shall then be better able to give you proof of my tender love. In the Heart of our Heavenly Spouse we shall live His very life, and through eternity I shall remain,

Your very little sister,

TERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS.







[1] Nearly all the letters written by Soeur Thérèse to her sister Léonie are lost. These few have been recovered. It will be remembered that Léonie entered the Convent of the Visitation at Caen. See note, page 113.

[2] Cf. I Cor. 2:9.

[3] Heb. 13:14.

[4] Isa. 49:15.

[5] Cant. 4:9.

[6] Ps. 22[23]:5.





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