The following text shows us Therese’s Christmas Grace. It helps us also understand better what God wants to give us for Christmas. Christmas 1886, soon Therese will be 14 years old. She says: “I was still very imperfect. I had a great desire, it is true, to practice virtue, but I went about it in a strange way.” (see below).

The account we find below is taken from her first autobiographical Manuscript, Manuscript A. She is writing in 1895-6, looking back at the graces God gave her on her journey of spiritual growth. We learn a lot from her, seeing how weak she was and what God’s Grace can do to free us and make us grow.

In the text below Therese starts by speaking about her sister Marie. She was her godmother but also her second mother, after ther mother died. She will mention also the four angels who are in heaven, alluding to her brother and sister who died very young. The grace Therese is about to describe to us is about her leaving her childhood and starting a “race of a giant” (“une course de géant”). Summing up this grace, “God was able in a very short time to extricate me from the very narrow circle in which I was turning without knowing how to come out.” (see text below) Therese was freed by God from her “scrupuls” and her “excessive sensitiveness”. Is that all? What is very noticieable here is that this entrance in “adhulthood” so to speak is intimately bound to the new desire developping in her heart: the salvation of the souls: “to work for the conversion of sinners” as she puts it. Here is a key statement which help us understand in a deeper way the grace she received: “I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy!” (see below)

Here is the text (the bold underlining is ours):

“When Marie entered Carmel, I was still very scrupulous. No longer able to confide in her I turned toward heaven. I addressed myself to the [10] four angels who had preceded me there, for I thought that these innocent souls, having never known troubles or fear, would have pity on their poor little sister who was suffering on earth. I spoke to them with the simplicity of a child, pointing out that being the youngest of the family, I was always the most loved, the most covered with [15] my sisters’ tender cares, that if they had remained on earth they, too, would have given me proofs of their affection. Their departure for heaven did not appear to me as a reason for forgetting me; on the contrary, finding themselves in a position to draw from the divine treasures, they had to take peace for me from these treasures and thus show me that in heaven they still knew how to love! The answer was not long in [20] coming, for soon peace came to inundate my soul with its delightful waves, and I knew then that if I was loved on earth, I was also loved in heaven. Since that moment, my devotion for my little brothers and sisters has grown and I love to hold dialogues with them frequently, to speak with them about the sadness of our exile, about my desire to join them soon in the Fatherland!

Although God showered His graces upon me, it wasn’t because I merited them because I was still very imperfect. I had a great desire, it is true, to practice [44v°] virtue, but I went about it in a strange way. Being the youngest in the family, I wasn’t accustomed to doing things for myself. Céline tidied up the room in which we slept, and I myself didn’t do any housework whatsoever. After Marie’s entrance into Carmel, it sometimes happened that I tried to make up the bed [5] to please God, or else in the evening, when Céline was away, I’d bring in her plants. But as I already said, it was for God alone I was doing these things and should not have expected any thanks from creatures. Alas, it was just the opposite. If Céline was unfortunate enough not to seem happy or surprised because of these little [10] services, I became unhappy and proved it by my tears.I was really unbearable because of my extreme touchiness; if I happened to cause anyone I loved some little trouble, even unwittingly, instead of forgetting about it and not crying, which made matters worse, I cried like a Magdalene and then when [15] I began to cheer up, I’d begin to cry again for having cried. All arguments were useless; I was quite unable to correct this terrible fault. I really don’t know how I could entertain the thought of entering Carmel when I was still in the swaddling clothes of a child! God would have to work a little miracle to [20] make me grow up in an instant, and this miracle He performed on that unforgettable Christmas day. On that luminous night which sheds such light on the delights of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, the gentle, little Child of only one hour, changed the night of my soul into rays of light. On that night when He made Himself subject to weakness and suffering for love of me, He made me strong and courageous, arming me with His weapons. Since that night I have never been defeated in any combat, but rather walked from victory to victory, beginning, so to speak, “to run as a giant”!

[45r°] The source of my tears was dried up and has since reopened rarely and with great difficulty. This justified what was often said to me: “You cry so much during your childhood, you’ll no longer have tears to shed later on!”

It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a [5] word, the grace of my complete conversion. We had come back from Midnight Mass where I had the happiness of receiving the strong and powerful God. Upon arriving at Les Buissonnets, I used to love to take my shoes from the chimney corner and examine the presents in them; this old custom had given us so much joy in our youth that Céline wanted to continue treating me as a baby since I was the youngest in the family. Papa [10] had always loved to see my happiness and listen to my cries of delight as I drew each surprise from the magic shoes, and my dear King’s gaiety increased my own happiness very much. However, Jesus desired to show me that I was to give up the defects of my childhood and so He withdrew its innocent pleasures. He permitted Papa, tired out after the Midnight Mass, to experience annoyance when seeing my shoes at the fireplace, and that he speak [15] those words which pierced my heart: “Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!” I was going upstairs, at the time, to remove my hat, and Céline, knowing how sensitive I was and seeing the tears already glistening in my eyes, wanted to cry too, for she loved me very much and understood my grief. She said, “Oh, Thérèse, don’t go downstairs; it would cause you too much grief to look [20] at your slippers right now!” But Thérèse was no longer the same; Jesus had changed her heart! Forcing back my tears, I descended the stairs rapidly; controlling the poundings of my heart, I took my slippers and placed them in front of Papa, and withdrew all the objects joyfully. I had the happy appearance of a Queen. Having regained his own cheerfulness, Papa was laughing; Céline believed it was all a dream! Fortunately, it was a sweet reality; Thérèse had discovered once again the strength of soul which she had lost at the age of four and a half, and she was to preserve it forever!

[45v°] On that night of light began the third period of my life, the most beautiful and the most filled with graces from heaven. The work I had been unable to do in ten years was done by Jesus in one instant, contenting himself with my good will which was never lacking. I could say to [5] Him like His apostles: “Master, I fished all night and caught nothing.” More merciful to me than He was to His disciples, Jesus took the net Himself, cast it, and drew it in filled with fish. He made me a fisher of souls. I experienced a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I hadn’t felt so intensely before.

I felt charity enter [10] into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy! One Sunday, looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the divine hands. I felt a great pang of sorrow when thinking this blood was falling to the ground without anyone’s hastening to gather it up. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the [15] Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: “I thirst!” These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet, it was not the [20] souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned with the desire to snatch them from the eternal flames.

To awaken my zeal God showed me my desires were pleasing to Him. I heard talk of a great criminal just condemned to death for some horrible crimes; everything pointed to the fact that he would die impenitent. I wanted at all costs to prevent him from falling into hell, and to attain my purpose I employed every means imaginable. Feeling that of myself I could do nothing, I offered [46r°] to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord, the treasures of the Church, and finally I begged Céline to have a Mass offered for my intentions. I didn’t dare ask this myself for fear of being obliged to say it was for Pranzini, the great criminal. I didn’t even want to tell Céline, but she [5] asked me such tender and pressing questions, I confided my secret to her. Far from laughing at me, she asked if she could help convert my sinner. I accepted gratefully, for I would have wished all creatures would unite with me to beg grace for the guilty man.

I felt in the depths of my heart certain that our desires would be granted, but to obtain courage [10] to pray for sinners I told God I was sure He would pardon the poor, unfortunate Pranzini; that I’d believe this even if he went to his death without any signs of repentance or without having gone to confession. I was absolutely confident in the mercy of Jesus. But I was begging Him for a “sign” of repentance only for my own simple consolation.

My prayer was [15] answered to the letter! In spite of Papa’s prohibition that we read no papers, I didn’t think I was disobeying when reading the passages pertaining to Pranzini. The day after his execution I found the newspaper “La Croix.” I opened it quickly and what did I see? Ah! my tears betrayed my emotion and I was obliged to hide. Pranzini had not gone to confession. [20] He had mounted the scaffold and was preparing to place his head in the formidable opening, when suddenly, seized by an inspiration, he turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance!I had obtained the “sign” I requested, and this sign was a perfect replica of the [46v°] grace Jesus had given me when He attracted me to pray for sinners. Wasn’t it before the wounds of Jesus, when seeing His divine blood flowing, that the thirst for souls had entered my heart? I wished to give them this immaculate blood to drink, this blood which was to purify them from their stains, and the lips of my “first child” [5] were pressed to the sacred wounds!

What an unspeakably sweet response! After this unique grace my desire to save souls grows each day, and I seemed to hear Jesus say to me what he said to the Samaritan woman: “Give me to drink!” It was a true interchange of love: to souls I was giving the blood of Jesus, to Jesus I was offering these same souls refreshed by the divine dew. [10] I slaked His thirst and the more I gave Him to drink, the more the thirst of my poor little soul increased, and it was this ardent thirst He was giving me as the most delightful drink of His love.

God was able in a very short time to extricate me from the very narrow circle in which I was turning without knowing how to come out. When seeing the road He made me [15] travel, my gratitude was great; but I must admit, if the biggest step was taken, there still remained many things for me to leave behind. Freed from its scruples and its excessive sensitiveness, my mind developed.

I had always loved the great and the beautiful, but at this epoch in my life I was taken up with an extreme desire for learning. Not satisfied with the lessons and work [20] my teacher was giving me, I applied myself to some special studies in history and science, and I did this on my own. The other studies left me indifferent, but these two subjects attracted all my attention; in a few months I acquired more knowledge than during my years of study. Ah! this was really only vanity and affliction of spirit. The chapter in the Imitation which speaks of knowledge came frequently to my mind, but I found ways of continuing all the same, telling myself that being at an age for studying, it could not be [47r°] bad to do it. I don’t believe I offended God (although I recognize the fact that I spent useless time in it), for I confined myself to a certain number of hours, unwilling to go beyond in order to mortify my intense desire to know things. I was at the most dangerous age for young girls, [5] but God did for me what Ezechiel reports in his prophecies: “Passing by me, Jesus saw that the time had come for me to be loved, He entered into a covenant with me and I became His own. He spread his mantle over me, he washed me with precious perfumes, He reclothed me in embroidered robes, He gave me priceless necklaces and ornaments. He nourished me with purest flour, with honey and oil in abundance. Then I became beautiful in His eyes and He made me a mighty queen.”

Yes, Jesus did all this for me. I could take each word and prove it was realized in me, but the graces I already mentioned are sufficient proof.