Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Conversion of Little Therese at Christmastime







"It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion...I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I've been happy!"  —St. Therese






A blessed Christmas to you and your family!  Christ the Savior is born!





When Therese was fourteen years old, something miraculous happened to her during the wee hours of Christmas morning. She had just returned from Midnight Mass with her father and her older sister Celine.  In France on Christmas Eve, the tradition holds that children leave their shoes out and their parents put little gifts inside.  At fourteen, Therese was a bit old for this, since most children had outgrown the custom by that age.  But Therese was babied by her family, being the youngest.  

As happy Little Therese, as she liked to be called, hurried upstairs to take off her hat in anticipation of searching her shoes,  she overheard her tired father say quietly to himself, "Thank goodness that's the last time we shall have this kind of thing!" Therese stopped what she was doing and did not say anything, but Celine knew her little sister's feelings had been hurt and she was fully expecting Therese to burst into tears over what their father had said.  

But surprisingly, the tears did not come.  She later wrote in her autobiography that, in that moment, Jesus came into her heart and did for her what she could not have done on her  own: He had made her think of her father's feelings over her own.  So, forcing back tears, she went into the parlor by the fireplace and pretended she hadn't heard a thing, and acted excited over the gifts in her shoes.  She would later write that this Christmas was her "conversion."   The oversensitive Therese existed no more;  she was given by Jesus the miraculous opportunity and grace to think of her father's feelings.  She didn't want him to know she had overheard him, because he was such a loving father that he would never have hurt her feelings on purpose.  God's grace at that moment gave her the maturity to swallow the hurt and try to please her father.

Remember when Olivia went with her friends to the apple orchard?  Her father unintentionally embarrassed her by mentioning, in front of the friends she was trying so hard to impress, that they'd be doing a lot of baking together in the days to come with all of the apples they'd be picking.  Olivia said nothing, and she didn't try to act like what her father said was untrue, even though she worried that her new friends wouldn't think it was "cool". 

There were many times in the book when Olivia tried to think of others' feelings before her own.  Can you think of a time in  your life when  you did as Therese did, and thought of others' feelings first? 



The fireplace at Les Buissonets, Therese's childhood home in Lisieux, where Therese had her conversion




"It would need a miracle to make me grow up once and for all, and God worked this little miracle on the date that I shall never forget: December 25, 1886"—St. Therese 



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