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The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux With Additional Writings and Sayings of St. Thérèse online

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Online Libraryde Lisieux ThérèseThe Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux With Additional Writings and Sayings of St. Thérèse → online text (page 1 of 24)
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Produced by David McClamrock






This electronic edition of the autobiography of St. Thérèse of
Lisieux (_The Story of a Soul_) includes much, but not all, of the
content of _Soeur Thérèse of Lisieux_ (London: Burns, Oates &
Washbourne, 1912; 8th ed., 1922), edited by Rev. T.N. Taylor. All
the translated writings and sayings of St. Thérèse contained in
that book are in this electronic edition, including the
autobiography as well as "Counsels and Reminiscences," letters,
and selected poems. Also included are the preface by Cardinal
Bourne, the prologue relating Thérèse's parentage and birth, and
the epilogue describing her final illness, her death, and related
events. Not included are the illustrations, the list of
illustrations, accounts of favors attributed to the intercession
of St. Thérèse, documents related to her beatification, and some
other material not written by her.

Footnotes have been re-numbered sequentially in each chapter. They
are presented at the end of each chapter, and some have been
slightly modified for ease of reference. A few footnotes,
referring to page numbers in the original, have been modified or
omitted. Citations to the Psalms, many of which were numbered
differently in Catholic Bibles of St. Thérèse's time than they
commonly are today, have the "new" number in brackets next to the
"old" number from the original - e.g., "Psalm 22[23]:1-4." Footnote
numbers are shown in brackets, e.g., "[1]."

The original page headers, page numbering, disclaimer of any
intention to anticipate the judgment of the Church in calling St.
Thérèse a "saint" before her canonization, and other extraneous
matter, which were deemed suitable for a printed book in 1922 but
not for an e-book in 2005, are not here. The French "oe" ligature,
in words such as "soeur," is not available in the standard
ISO-8859-1 character set, and obviously is represented here by the
two-letter combination "oe." Italics are represented by
underscores at the beginning and end, _like this._ The first word
of each chapter is not set in all caps as it was in the printed
book. A few obvious typographical errors have been corrected, with
the changes in brackets, e.g., "[s]he" for "the" in Chapter IX.
All else, including capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and
British spelling, is intended to reflect the content of the eighth
edition of _Soeur Thérèse of Lisieux._ If it does not, the fault
is that of the transcriber (me, David McClamrock).









IMPRIMATUR EDMUNDUS Canonicus SURMONT Vicarius Generalis

WESTMONASTERII, die nonâ Decembris, 1912.








Chapter I. Earliest Memories
" II. A Catholic Household
" III. Pauline Enters the Carmel
" IV. First Communion and Confirmation
" V. Vocation of Thérèse
" VI. A Pilgrimage to Rome
" VII. The Little Flower Enters the Carmel
" VIII. Profession of Soeur Thérèse
" IX. The Night of the Soul
" X. The New Commandment
" XI. A Canticle of Love



To Céline
To Mother Agnes of Jesus
To Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart
To Sister Frances Teresa
To Marie Guérin
To Jeanne Guérin
To Missionaries

Her Act of Oblation
A Morning Prayer
Act of Consecration to the Holy Face
Prayer in Honour of the Holy Child
Prayer to the Holy Child
Prayer to the Holy Face
Prayer in Honour of St. Joan of Arc
Prayer to Obtain Humility


My Song of To-day
I Thirst for Love
To Scatter Flowers
Why I Love Thee, Mary





SUPPLEMENT [omitted]





As we become acquainted with the histories of those in whom, in
long succession, God has been pleased to show forth examples of
holiness of life, it seems as if every phase of human existence
had in the history of the Church received its consecration as a
power to bring men nearer to their Maker. But there is no limit to
the types of sanctity which the Creator is pleased to unfold
before His Creatures. To many, on reading for the first time the
story of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, it
came almost as a shock to find a very youthful member of an
austere Order, strictly retired from the world, engaged in hidden
prayer and mortification, appearing before us to reveal to the
whole world the wonders of the close intimacy of friendship to
which her Divine Spouse had been pleased to call her. Certainly
the way by which Soeur Thérèse was led is not the normal life of
Carmel, nor hers the manner whereby most Carmelites are called to
accomplish the wondrous apostolate of intercession to which their
lives are given. But no less certain is it that, in her particular
case, her work for God and her apostolate were not to be confined
between the walls of her religious home, or to be limited by her
few years on earth.

In the first place, we know that it was by obedience that the
record of God's dealings with her soul were set down in writing.
And again, the long tale of graces granted in such strange
profusion through her intercession is proof sufficient that it was
not without Divine permission and guidance that the history of her
special and peculiar vocation has become the property of all
Catholics in every land. It is for God to keep, and for Him to
make known the secrets of His Love for men. And in the case of
Soeur Thérèse it has been His Will to divulge His secrets in most
generous consideration for our needs.

What are the hidden treasures which Our Divine Master thus reveals
to us through His chosen little servant?

It is the old story of simplicity in God's service, of the perfect
accomplishment of small recurring duties, of trustful confidence
in Him who made and has redeemed and sanctified us. Humility,
self-effacement, obedience, hiddenness, unfaltering charity, with
all the self-control and constant effort that they imply, are
written on every page of the history of this little Saint. And, as
we turn its pages, the lesson is borne in upon our souls that
there is no surer nor safer way of pleasing Our Father Who is in
Heaven than by remaining ever as little children in His sight.
Doubtless for many of her clients whose hearts are kindled as they
read this book, Soeur Thérèse will obtain, as she has done so
often in the past, wonderful gifts for health of soul and body.
But may she win for all of us without exception a deep and
fruitful conviction of the unchanging truth, that unless we become
as little children in the doing of our Heavenly Father's Will, we
cannot enter into our Eternal Home.

FRANCIS CARDINAL BOURNE, Archbishop of Westminster.

Feast of the Presentation of Our Blessed Lady, 1912.



In the month of September, 1843, a young man of twenty climbed the
mountain of the Great St. Bernard. His eyes shone with a holy
enthusiasm as the splendour of the Alps stirred to the depths his
responsive nature. Presently, accustomed as they were to discern
God's beauty in the beauty of His handiwork, they glistened with
tears. He paused for a space, then, continuing his journey, soon
reached the celebrated monastery that like a beacon on those
heights darts afar its beams of faith and magnificent charity.

The Prior, struck by the frank and open countenance of his guest,
welcomed him with more than wonted hospitality. Louis Joseph
Stanislaus Martin was the pilgrim's name. He was born on August
22, 1823, at Bordeaux, while his father, a brave and devout
soldier, was captain in the garrison there. "God has predestined
this little one for Himself," said the saintly Bishop of Bordeaux
on the occasion of his baptism, and events have proved the truth
of his words. From this town, by the banks of the Garonne, his
parents went to Alençon in lower Normandy, and there in their new
home, as in their old one, Louis was the cherished Benjamin.

It was not the loveliness of Swiss lakes and mountains and skies
that had drawn the traveller from distant Alençon. He came to the
monastery - and his journey was chiefly on foot - to consecrate his
days to God. On learning his purpose the Prior questioned him upon
his knowledge of Latin, only to discover that the young aspirant
had not completed his course of studies in that language. "I am
indeed sorry, my child," said the venerable monk, "since this is
an essential condition, but you must not be disheartened. Go back
to your own country, apply yourself diligently, and when you have
ended your studies we shall receive you with open arms."

Louis was disappointed. He set out for home - for exile he would
have said - but ere long he saw clearly that his life was to be
dedicated to God in another and equally fruitful way, and that the
Alpine monastery was to be nothing more to him than a sweet memory.

* * * * * *

A few years after the vain quest of Louis Martin, a similar scene
was enacted in Alençon itself. Accompanied by her mother, Zélie
Guérin - an attractive and pious girl - presented herself at the
Convent of the Sisters of Charity in the hope of gaining
admission. For years it had been her desire to share the Sisters'
work, but this was not to be. In the interview that followed, the
Superioress - guided by the Holy Ghost - decided unhesitatingly
that Zélie's vocation was not for the religious life. God wanted
her in the world, and so she returned to her parents, and to the
companionship of her elder sister and her younger brother. Shortly
afterwards the gates of the Visitation Convent at Le Mans closed
upon her beloved sister, and Zélie's thoughts turned to the
Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. "O my God" - she repeated constantly -
"since I am unworthy to be Thy Spouse, like my dear sister, I
shall enter the married state to fulfill Thy Holy Will, and I
beseech Thee to make me the mother of many children, and to grant
that all of them may be dedicated to Thee."

God gave ear to her prayer, and His Finger was visible in the
circumstances which led to her becoming the wife of Louis Martin,
on July 12, 1858, in Alençon's lovely Church of Notre Dame. Like
the chaste Tobias, they were joined together in matrimony - "solely
for the love of children, in whom God's Name might be blessed for
ever and ever." Nine white flowers bloomed in this sacred garden.
Of the nine, four were transplanted to Paradise ere their buds had
quite unfolded, while five were gathered in God's walled gardens
upon earth, one entering the Visitation Convent at Caen, the
others the Carmel of Lisieux.

From the cradle all were dedicated to Mary Immaculate, and all
received her name: Marie Louise, Marie Pauline, Marie Léonie,
Marie Hélène, who died at the age of four and a half, Marie Joseph
Louis, Marie Joseph Jean Baptiste, Marie Céline, Marie Mélanie
Therèse, who died when three months old, and lastly, _Marie
Françoise Thérèse._

The two boys were the fruit of prayers and tears. After the birth
of the four elder girls, their parents entreated St. Joseph to
obtain for them the favour of a son who should become a priest and
a missionary. Marie Joseph soon was given them, and his pretty
ways appealed to all hearts, but only five months had run their
course when Heaven demanded what it had lent. Then followed more
urgent novenas.

The grandeur of the Priesthood, glorious upon earth, ineffable in
eternity, was so well understood by those Christian parents, that
their hearts coveted it most dearly. At all costs the family must
have a Priest of the Lord, one who would be an apostle,
peradventure a martyr. But, "the thoughts of the Lord are not our
thoughts, His ways are not our ways." Another little Joseph was
born, and with him hope once again grew strong. Alas! Nine months
had scarcely passed when he, too, fled from this world and joined
his angel brother.

They did not ask again. Yet, could the veil of the future have
been lifted, their heavy hearts would, of a surety, have been
comforted. A child was to be vouchsafed them who would be a herald
of Divine love, not to China alone, but to all the ends of the

Nay, they themselves were destined to shine as apostles, and we
read on one of the first pages of the Portuguese edition of the
Autobiography, these significant words of an eminent Jesuit:

"To the Sacred Memory of Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin and of
Zélie Guérin, the blessed parents of Sister Teresa of the Child
Jesus, for an example to all Christian parents."

They little dreamed of this future apostolate, nevertheless they
made ready their souls day by day to be God's own instruments in
God's good time. With most loving resignation they greeted the
many crosses which the Lord laid upon them - the Lord whose tender
name of Father is truest in the dark hour of trial.

Every morning saw them at Mass; together they knelt at the Holy
Table. They strictly observed the fasts and abstinences of the
Church, kept Sunday as a day of complete rest from work in spite
of the remonstrance of friends, and found in pious reading their
most delightful recreation. They prayed in common - after the
touching example of Captain Martin, whose devout way of repeating
the _Our Father_ brought tears to all eyes. Thus the great
Christian virtues flourished in their home. Wealth did not bring
luxury in its train, and a strict simplicity was invariably

"How mistaken are the great majority of men!" Madame Martin used
often to say. "If they are rich, they at once desire honours; and
if these are obtained, they are still unhappy; for never can that
heart be satisfied which seeks anything but God."

Her whole ambition as a mother was directed to Heaven. "Four of my
children are already well settled in life," she once wrote; "and
the others will go likewise to that Heavenly Kingdom - enriched
with greater merit because the combat will have been more

Charity in all its forms was a natural outlet to the piety of
these simple hearts. Husband and wife set aside each year a
considerable portion of their earnings for the Propagation of the
Faith; they relieved poor persons in distress, and ministered to
them with their own hands. On one occasion Monsieur Martin, like a
good Samaritan, was seen to raise a drunken man from the ground in
a busy thoroughfare, take his bag of tools, support him on his
arm, and lead him home. Another time when he saw, in a railway
station, a poor and starving epileptic without the means to return
to his distant home, he was so touched with pity that he took off
his hat and, placing in it an alms, proceeded to beg from the
passengers on behalf of the sufferer. Money poured in, and it was
with a heart brimming over with gratitude that the sick man
blessed his benefactor.

Never did he allow the meannesses of human respect to degrade his
Christian dignity. In whatever company he might be, he always
saluted the Blessed Sacrament when passing a Church; and he never
met a priest without paying him a mark of respect. A word from his
lips sufficed to silence whosoever dared blaspheme in his presence.

In reward for his virtues, God showered even temporal blessings on
His faithful servant. In 1871 he was able to give up his business
as a jeweller, and retire to a house in the Rue St. Blaise. The
making of point-lace, however, begun by Madame Martin, was still
carried on.

In that house the "Little Flower of Jesus" first saw the sunshine.
Again and again, in the pages of her Autobiography, she calls
herself by this modest name of the _Little Flower,_ emblematic of
her humility, her purity, her simplicity, and it may be added, of
the poetry of her soul. The reader will learn in the Epilogue how
it was also used by one of her favourite martyr-saints - the now
Blessed Théophane Vénard. On the manuscript of her Autobiography
she set the title: _"The Story of the Springtime of a little white
Flower,"_ and in truth such it was, for long ere the rigours of
life's winter came round, the Flower was blossoming in Paradise.

It was, however, in mid-winter, January 2, 1873, that this ninth
child of Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin was born. Marie and Pauline
were at home for the Christmas holidays from the Visitation
Convent at Le Mans, and though there was, it is true, a slight
disappointment that the future priest was still denied them, it
quickly passed, and the little one was regarded as a special gift
from Heaven. Later on, her beloved Father delighted in calling
her his "Little Queen," adding at times the high-sounding
titles - "Of France and Navarre."

The Little Queen was indeed well received that winter's morning,
and in the course of the day a poor waif rang timidly at the door
of the happy home, and presented a paper bearing the following
simple stanza:

"Smile and swiftly grow; All beckons thee to joy, Sweet love, and
tenderest care. Smile gladly at the dawn, Bud of an hour! - for
thou Shalt be a stately rose."

It was a charming prophecy, for the bud unfolded its petals and
became a rose - a rose of love - but not for long, "for the space of
a morn!"

* * * * * *

On January 4, she was carried to the Church of Notre Dame to
receive the Sacrament of Baptism; her eldest sister, Marie, was
her godmother, and she was given the name of _Marie Françoise

All was joy at first, but soon the tender bud drooped on its
delicate stem: little hope was held out - it must wither and die.
"You must pray to St. Francis de Sales," wrote her aunt from the
convent at Le Mans, "and you must promise, if the child recovers,
to call her by her second name, Frances." This was a sword-thrust
for the Mother. Leaning over the cradle of her Thérèse, she
awaited the coming of the end, saying: "Only when the last hope
has gone, will I promise to call her Frances."

The gentle St. Francis waived his claim in favour of the great
Reformer of the Carmelite Order: the child recovered, and so
retained her sweet name of Thérèse. Sorrow, however, was mixed
with the Mother's joy, when it became necessary to send the babe
to a foster-mother in the country. There the "little rose-bud"
grew in beauty, and after some months had gained strength
sufficient to allow of her being brought back to Alençon. Her
memory of this short but happy time spent with her sainted Mother
in the Rue St. Blaise was extraordinarily vivid. To-day a tablet
on the balcony of No. 42 informs the passers-by that here was born
a certain Carmelite, by name, Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and
the Holy Face. Fifteen years have gone since the meeting in Heaven
of Madame Martin and her Carmelite child, and if the pilgrimage to
where the Little Flower first saw the light of day, be not so
large as that to the grave where her remains await their glorious
resurrection, it may nevertheless be numbered in thousands. And to
the English-speaking pilgrim there is an added pleasure in the
fact that her most notable convert, the first minister of the
United Free Church of Scotland to enter the True Fold, performs,
with his convert wife, the courteous duties of host.

* * * * * *

It will not be amiss to say a brief word here on the brother and
sister of Madame Martin. Her sister - in religion, Sister Marie
Dosithea - led a life so holy at Le Mans that she was cited by Dom
Guéranger, perhaps the most distinguished Benedictine of the
nineteenth century, as the model of a perfect nun. By her own
confession, she had never been guilty from earliest childhood of
the smallest deliberate fault. She died on February 24, 1877. It
was in the convent made fragrant by such holiness that her niece
Pauline Martin, elder sister and "little mother" of Thérèse, and
for five years her Prioress at the Carmel, received her education.
And if the Little Flower may have imbibed the liturgical spirit
from her teachers, the daughters of St. Benedict in Lisieux, so
that she could say before her death: "I do not think it is
possible for anyone to have desired more than I to assist properly
at choir and to recite perfectly the Divine Office" - may it not be
to the influences from Le Mans that may be traced something of the
honey-sweet spirit of St. Francis de Sales which pervades the
pages of the Autobiography?

With the brother of Zélie Guérin the reader will make acquaintance
in the narrative of Thérèse. He was a chemist in Lisieux, and it
was there his daughter Jeanne Guérin married Dr. La Néele and his
younger child Marie entered the Carmel. Our foreign missionaries
had a warm friend in the uncle of Thérèse - for his charities he
was made godfather to an African King; and to the Catholic
Press - that home missionary - he was ever most devoted. Founder, at
Lisieux, of the Nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and
a zealous member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he was
called to his abundant reward on September 28, 1909. Verily the
lamp of faith is not extinct in the land of the Norman.

The Father of Thérèse, after the death of his wife, likewise made
his home in the delightful town which lies amid the beautiful
apple orchards of the valley of the Touques. Lisieux is deeply
interesting by reason of its fine old churches of St. Jacques and
St. Pierre, and its wonderful specimens of quaint houses, some of
which date from the twelfth century. In matters of faith it is
neither fervent nor hostile, and in 1877 its inhabitants little
thought that through their new citizen, Marie Françoise Thérèse
Martin, their town would be rendered immortal.

* * * * * *

"The cell at Lisieux reminds us of the cell of the Blessed Gabriel
at Isola. There is the same even tenor of way, the same
magnificant fidelity in little things, the same flames of divine
charity, consuming but concealed. Nazareth, with the simplicity of
its Child, and the calm abysmal love of Mary and Joseph - Nazareth,
adorable but imitable, gives the key to her spirit, and her
Autobiography does but repeat the lessons of the thirty hidden

And it repeats them with an unrivalled charm. "This master of
asceticism," writes a biographer[3] of St. Ignatius Loyola, "loved
the garden and loved the flowers. In the balcony of his study he
sat gazing on the stars: it was then Lainez heard him say: 'Oh,
how earth grows base to me when I look on Heaven!' . . . The like
imaginative strain, so scorned of our petty day, inhered in all
the lofty souls of that age. Even the Saints of our day speak a
less radiant language: and sanctity shows 'shorn of its rays'
through the black fog of universal utilitarianism, the materiality
which men have drawn into the very lungs of their souls."

This is not true of the sainted authoress of the chapters that
follow - "less radiant," in the medium of a translation. In her
own inimitable pages, as in those of a Campion or an Ignatius, a
Teresa of Avila, or a John of the Cross - the Spirit of Poetry is
the handmaiden of Holiness. This new lover of flowers and student
of the stars, this "strewer of roses," has uplifted a million
hearts from the "base earth" and "black fog" to the very throne of

Online Libraryde Lisieux ThérèseThe Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux With Additional Writings and Sayings of St. Thérèse → online text (page 1 of 24)