L E T T E R S
St. Thérèse's quest for Carmel
Besides asking permission to enter Carmel from her "incomparable Father," St. Thérèse also needed permission from her Uncle Guérin, who at first opposed her entrance. The two letters that follow revolve around this latter enterprise. (See the Readings section.)
Taken from General Correspondence Volume One Translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright (c) 1982 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, 2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 U.S.A.
From Thérèse to Sr. Agnes of Jesus [her sister Pauline]
Saturday, 8 October 1887
My dear little Sister,
Ever since Wednesday, I was looking for a chance to speak to Uncle; this morning, I had the chance. Uncle was very kind. I was afraid that, since it was a Saturday, he would not be pleased, for on that day he is very busy. On the contrary, as soon as I asked him to come, he very eagerly put down the book he was reading.
He told me that for some time he had suspected that I had something to tell him; then he went on to give me a very affectionate little sermon which I had expected. He told me he was very sure of my vocation, that It was not this which prevented him from allowing me to leave. It is only the world, I believe, which is the obstacle. It would be a real public scandal to see a child entering Carmel; I would be the only one in all of France, etc. . . However, if God will it, He will be able to prove it. In the meanwhile, Uncle told me that according to the rules of human prudence, I must not dream of entering before the age of seventeen or eighteen, and this will still be too soon.
Uncle told me a lot of other things along this line, but it would take too long to recount them. As you can well image, I did not speak to him about a date. Dear little Pauline, I am very happy that Uncle found no other obstacle but that of the world. I think that God will not be at a loss to show Uncle, when He wills to do so, that it is not the world that is going to stop Him from taking me into Carmel. You realize, dear little sister, Uncle told me very many other nice things, but I am telling you only the obstacles that he has found. Fortunately, as far as God is concerned, these obstacles don't exist.
Oh! dear Pauline, I can't tell you today all the things that fill my heart. I can't get my thoughts together. In spite of everything, I feel that I am filled with courage; I am sure that God is not going to abandon me. Now, as Uncle told me, my time of trial is about to begin. Oh! pray for me; pray for your Thérèsita. You know how much she loves you; you are her confidante. I would really have to see you, but this is still a sacrifice to offer Jesus. Oh, I want to refuse Him nothing, and even though I feel sad and alone on this earth, He still remains with me. And has not St. Teresa said: "God alone suffices." . . .
Pardon me, dear Pauline, for sending you this letter or this scribbling in which the thoughts don't even follow each other. I don't' even know if you will be able to read it so poorly is it written, but my heart had so many things that my pen was unable to follow them. Tell dear Godmother [Marie] that I am thinking very much about her during her retreat. Ask her not to forget her goddaughter.
See you soon, dear sister. Once again, I really don't want to send you this letter, but I don't have the courage to begin it all over again.
Your little Theresita
I am sending you your little penholder.
Tell dear Mother [Mother Marie de Gonzague] that her Theresita loves her with all her heart.
From Sr. Agnes of Jesus to Isidore Guérin
21 October 1887
I have asked the Blessed virgin to inspire me in what I have to say, for I don't know myself what I am about to confide to you . . . Poor little Benjamin of Thérèse was so pale, so sad, so unhappy this morning that it was very necessary for her to admit the cause of all this. A whole week of agony, and why? I was about to give her a scolding, but in her little eyes filled with sweetness and tears I believed I saw something other than the pain of a child. Céline herself was very much moved . . . Well, what is the matter? Are you sick? No, Pauline, but I have never suffered so much; if this continues, I will die from sadness. I can see that Uncle is waiting for a miracle; God, however, will not work a miracle for me . . . He says it is extraordinary for me to enter at age fifteen. It's unfortunate that this is extraordinary, but I don't understand why God is asking, then, something impossible. It seems to me that God always asks only for possible things, and He is asking this from me . . . Oh, Pauline, I have only one hope, and it is prayer. I am praying, I am praying, if you only knew with what fervor! Every day I say to God: My God, You are all-powerful and Uncle always listens to You; when You are in his heart, tell him very loudly that You want me without any delay. . . I was really tried this week; I suffered very much, be content with that and give me some consolation now. . . . The trip to Rome is but a burden to me as long as You don't tell me it is my honey moon trip . . Oh, Jesus, take me for Christmas! . .
I admit, dear Uncle, that this confidence moved me more than gave me pleasure. This evening, during prayer, therein the intimacy of a heart-to-heart talk with Jesus, I was unable to restrain myself from making some gentle reproaches to Him. A thousand thoughts, more Human than divine, came into my mind, especially this bitter reflection which would condemn both Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and myself: It is her sisters who have attracted her! . . . And this other reflection: What a Father! He does not love His children, H wants to get rid of them, that's evident.
But Jesus, in his turn, scolded His lamb. He reproached her for her small spirit of faith . . . "Am I not the Master of hearts? Which is better, to listen to My voice or that of the blind and senseless world? . . . . I will be stronger than all of you. I want this child. She is a lily-but opened before the dawn. She is a fruit ripened before the autumn. From on high, I have desired this lily, the beauty of this fruit . . . My divine hand is ready to pluck My treasure . . . Who will dare say to Me: Lord, it is too soon, if I find that it is time? . . .
Beloved Uncle, I don't know how I can trace these lines, for my heart and my eyes are filled with tears. I come to you as to a Father, a real Father, not to plead but to explain the cause of this dear child . . . I think nothing, I want nothing, I understand nothing . . Let God do what He will do! At the present moment, I fear more than ever to hold back this hand lowered with love on our lily in flower! After all, this incomparable privilege of belonging to Jesus almost from the cradle, isn't this privilege worth what it will cost, namely, the blame of a most bitter world?
I beg you, dear Uncle, to pardon my heart this filial outpouring. It is not to give you any advice. You know better than I how you must act. . . I just wanted to instruct you in the whole matter, and, besides, the Benjamin asked me to do it. Send me your paternal kiss and believe me to be always,
Your older little daughter,
Sister Agnes of Jesus
r.c.ind. [religieuse carmelite indigne, i.e., unworthy carmelite religious]