A Monk's Diary

Wednesday, December 12, 1986 A Giant’s Race!

            “Since that blessed night, I have not been vanquished in any battle, but, on the contrary, I have been marching from victory to victory and have begun a giant’s race!” In this way Thérèse begins the account of her CONVERSION. Yesterday’s little girl is wearing seven-league boots . . . she leaps, she races! She is conscious of a BATTLE that lasts, of a victory yet to be won: the battlefield is the same, but she no longer runs away. That is the essential difference! She has escaped from the sirens that were preventing her from taking up her part in the great battle for holiness. Affliction had required that her holiness would be frozen in that state of sweet irresponsibility that had preceded her conversion. A conspiracy of her family and even of Carmel itself would have willingly locked her into an easy dependance, reassuring, disarming, disarmed. She fell sick when away at school, she was given private lessons in the home of a certain Madame Papineau where the local students were happy to admire this little girl who was so good, so pretty, so well-behaved . . . they pampered her in order to ignore the source of her unhealthy fragility: she almost died of a kind of languor, as if she were a plant in need of oxygen. She needed another environment than that of the calculations they taught her to make: counting sacrifices, keeping track of her sins. She became scrupulous because of it. The accounting:  her older sister told her what she had to confess. When sick, she saw the Virgin smile at her. The veil was raised on another future . . . suddenly, joy began to disintegrate in the face of a torment that she had betrayed a secret, reinforced by the fear that she had faked her illness. The day of her first communion, Thérèse asked her King to take away her freedom, for her FREEDOM frightened her, she felt so weak and breakable. In 1886, Thérèse, along with her father and sisters, was enrolled in the confraternity of the Child Jesus. She gave herself to Him to be his little plaything: “a little worthless ball that he could throw to the ground, squash under his foot, poke, leave in a corner, or squash against his heart . . . I wanted to amuse little Jesus . . . give myself up to his childish games.” When she wrote that, Thérèse doubtless knew that she had been that little tyrant and that her image of Jesus went back to that spoiled, capricious child who wanted to pamper Jesus in order to have free rein for her weakness and to be pampered herself . . .

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