St. Theresa of Lisieux entered the Carmelite Convent at Lisieux when she was fifteen. At twenty-two, as she began sinking with tuberculosis, Mother Agnes, the convent’s superior, told her to occupy herself by writing an account of her life. Theresa wrote an account she called The Journal of a Soul, and it has accidentally become famous.
When a nun died in a French Carmelite Convent there was a custom of circulating a short version of that dead sister’s life to the other convents. So when Theresa died they sent around her own journal. People visiting those convents picked it up, and it became immediately popular.
When it was passed around outside the convents, editors appeared, and began working on Theresa’s words, removing parts people might find less than edifying; but even so it remained a fine saintly account. Let me mention three details that I found memorable.
First, she had prepared for months to make a good first confession. She believed that through the priest she would be talking directly to God. So when the priest pulled back the slide on her side she blurted out, “I love you!”
Second, Theresa had lost four infant siblings, then at three she lost her mother to breast cancer; and Theresa kept calling for her. She went on to suffer several prolonged childhood ailments that left her to need and expect tender care. At thirteen, as she was putting out her shoe for Christmas gifts she overheard her father asking how long they would need to treat her like a child. It immediately jolted her into the need to grow up. That reversal of her attitudes has inspired many individuals to pray for the grace to turn their lives around.
A third story from Theresa’s life comes from when she was sinking into her final illness. An old nun passing her in the cloister cheered her up by saying she looked full of health. Then, another nun, passing her on the far side of the cloister showed concern for her sickly appearance. Theresa was immediately dejected, but then she turned the experience around. She hung tight to the experience’s lesson. We should not let our happiness hinge on peoples casual remarks.