Saint Thérèse asks her Uncle Isidore Guerin1 permission to enter Carmel
photograph of Saint Therese of Lisieux After receiving Papa’s permission, I believed I’d be able to fly to Carmel without and fears, but painful trials were still to prove my vocation. It was with trembling I confided my resolution to Uncle. He showed me great tenderness but did not grant me his permission to leave. He forbade me to speak about my vocation to him until I was seventeen. It was contrary to human prudence, he said, to have a child of fifteen enter Carmel. This Carmelite life was, in the eyes of many, a life of mature reflection, and it would be doing a great wrong to the religious life to allow an inexperienced child to embrace it. Everybody would be talking about it, etc. etc. He even said that for him to decide to allow me to leave would require a miracle. I saw al reasoning with him was useless and so I left, my heart plunged into the most profound bitterness. My only consolation was prayer. I begged Jesus to perform the miracle demanded, since at this price only I’d be able to answer His call.

A long time passed by before I dared speak to him again. It was very difficult for me to go to his home, and he himself seemed to be no longer considering my vocation. I learned later on that my great sadness influenced him very much. Before allowing any ray of hope to shine in my soul, God willed to send me a painful martyrdom lasting three days. Oh! never had I understood so well as during this trial, the sorrow of Mary and Joseph during their three-day search for the divine Child Jesus. I was in a sad desert, or rather my soul was like a fragile boat delivered up to the mercy of the waves and having no pilot. I knew Jesus was there sleeping in my boat, but the night was so black it was impossible to see Him; nothing gave me any light, not a single flash came to break the dark clouds. No doubt, lightning is a dismal light, but at least if the storm had broken out in earnest I would have been able to see Jesus for one passing moment. But it was night! The dark night of the soul! I felt I was all alone in the garden of Gethsemani like Jesus, and I found no consolation on earth or from heaven; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me. Nature seemed to share in my bitter sadness, for during these three days the sun did not shine and the rain poured down in torrents. (I have noticed in all the serious circumstances of my life that nature always reflected the image of my soul. On days filled with tears the heavens cried along with me; on days of joy the sun sent forth its joyful rays in profusion and the blue skies were not obscured by a single cloud.)

Finally, on the fourth day which happened to be a Saturday, the day consecrated to the sweet Queen of heaven, I went to see Uncle. What was my surprise when I saw him looking at me, and, without expressing any desire to speak to him, he had me come into his study! He began by making some gentle reproaches because I appeared to be afraid of him, and then he said it wasn't necessary to beg for a miracle, that he had only asked God to give him "a simple change of heart" and that he had been answered. Ah! I was not tempted to beg for a miracle because the miracle had been granted; Uncle was no longer the same. Without making any allusion whatsoever to "human prudence," he told me I was a little flower God wanted to gather, and he would no longer oppose it!

This definitive response was truly worthy of him. For the third time, now, this Christian of another age allowed one of the adopted daughters of his heart to go bury herself far from the world. Aunt, too, was admirable in her tenderness and prudence. I don't remember her saying a single word during my trial that could have increased my sufferings. I understood she pitied her little Thérèse. But when Uncle gave his consent, she too gave hers, but at the same time she showed me in a thousand little ways the great sorrow my departure would be for her. Alas, our dear relatives were far from expecting the same sacrifice would be asked of them twice over.2 But when God stretches out His hand to ask, His hand is never empty, and His intimate friends can draw from Him the courage and strength they need.
1Isidore Guérin was the younger brother of Saint Thérèse's mother, Zélie. With Zélie's death when Thérèse was 4, he became the official guardian of her children.

2Céline, Thérèse's sister, and Marie, cousin of Thérèse and youngest daughter of the Isidore and Céline Guérin, would both also enter Carmel after Thérèse.

from Story of A Soul, translated by Father John Clarke, O.C.D., 1976, Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, 2131 Lincoln Road NE, Washington, DC 20002 USA, pages 105-108


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