THE FIFTH DAY (Chapter 5)
The Little Flower and Sacrifice
If the Little Flower had been merely an attractive child or a
girl happy in her love for the Saviour, she would have drawn our
affection but not our admiration and gratitude.
But she was more than a child; she was a brave and splendid
woman who, when she looked up at Christ on the cross and saw His
thorn-crowned head, begged that her head might be crowned as His.
She offered herself freely to be Christ's companion on the cross
as God's victim for sin. Why was it that, when St. Catherine was offered by Our Lord her choice between a crown of roses and a crown of thorns, she chose the thorns? Why did the Little Flower walk bravely in the path of sacrifice and suffering?
These saints saw that Christ, their love, was crucified, and
they would have been ashamed to wear roses while He wore thorns,
because they would not accept the joys of the world while He
bore its sorrows. They loved Him, and they could not bear to
think that their lives should be full of laughter and flowers
while His was filled with jeers and brambles.
Besides, with the clear vision of sanctity, they knew the
penalties that are due to sin. In their pure eyes their own
imperfections seemed to demand a life of atonement.
And even if they could find no serious sin on their soul, a
consuming pity of sinners made them eager to fling themselves
before God's throne of justice and beg Him to let them bear the
punishment which sinners had deserved.
They were the voluntary victims taking upon their innocent
bodies, through an eager love of their fellow men, the
inescapable punishment due to sin.
Early in life, almost from infancy, the Little Flower had fallen
in love with Christ crucified, and her tears had dropped upon
the torn feet of the Saviour.
Almost from the dawn of reason she had recognised the
hideousness of sin and the punishment which it deserved from a
just God. So, from the very start, the thought of herself as a
little victim sharing the sufferings of Christ, as Mary had
shared them beneath the cross, and offering up incessant
voluntary penance for the unrepented sins of the world.
The life of God's little victim, for all its love and sweetness,
was an unending martyrdom like the bloodless martyrdom of Our
As a child she went down to the valley of sorrow, stood beside a
new-made grave of her mother, lay an invalid in a long and
tedious illness and felt the pang when her beloved sister left
her to enter religious life. Deep and instinctive as was her love of the beautiful things of the world, she early felt their sad transitoriness.
At fifteen she was ready and eager to undertake the life of a
Carmelite, which was meant to be a continued martyrdom of body
Almost unbroken silence, interrupted sleep, long and hard fasts,
a rough plank cot, labour at the most menial tasks-these made
the continued routine of her day as a nun. She rose for prayer
when she could hardly hold her head up, so heavy was it with
She worked at a washtub next to her sister and might not speak
to her because of the rule of silence. Her young body, still
needing food, observed the rigorous fasts of the Carmel.
It was terribly hard, as it was hard for all the saints. Penance
and sacrifice are not easy for the holiest natures.
They are made possible only by a remembrance of Christ's
sufferings and a desire to save sinners from the consequences of
In this hard life she made a still greater sacrifice. As a child
she had known the agony of scruples and the desolation that
comes when prayer is dry and hard and God seems so very far
away. Now, as a nun, she asked to share the desolation which
made Christ cry out on the cross, ''My God, my God, why hast
thou forsaken Me''
Many of the saints, she knew, had tasted the intimate joy of
feeling Christ's near presence and knowing with a sense of
spiritual rapture that He loved them.
The great St. Teresa had been rapt in ecstasies; St. Margaret
had looked upon the Sacred Heart; St. Francis had felt in his
hands the print of Christ's own stigmata. But these were not for
Deliberately she asked God to keep out of her life sweetness and
consolation in prayer. She preferred to serve Him without those
rewards. In fact, she dreaded ecstasies or visions as graces unsuited
to one who was a consecrated victim.
She wanted to suffer from dryness and desolation and to live the
ordinary hard way, with prayer always difficult and faith a
determined effort of mind and will and never an emotional joy.
Christ heard her request. No joy came to her in prayer.
After Holy Communion or before the tabernacle, while she poured
out her soul in love, she heard no answer of love from Christ.
her devotions had to be performed by sheer force of will,
without a glimmer of consolation or a trace of sensible delight.
Her superior, whom she looked upon as God's own substitute and
as such deeply loved, felt that this child, so graceful and
attractive, would be easily spoiled by attention or affection,
and so she treated her little nun as trouble-some or as if she
were too young and childish for serious work.
Then Therese knew the terrible anguish that came from learning
that her beloved father's mind was gone, and from realising that
she could not hold his hand nor stroke his brow, nor do any of
the tender, daughterly things she would have loved to do.
Sickness added its suffering, and so for years in Carmel she
lived, as she had offered to live, a life of penance and
sacrifice, without any consolation save the stern joy of knowing
that she had taken her place beneath the cross on Calvary and
was by her sufferings savings sinners from the consequences of
Much as we are drawn to the innocent child, deeply as we admire
the burning love which she showed for God, it is for the willing
victim that we feel the deepest admiration and gratitude,
because she really understood and loved the crucifix, and she
really grasped the punishment which sin deserves; she shared
Christ's sufferings for the sake of careless sinners.
In the presence of this voluntary victim, we, who complain so
sourly of our sorrows and turn at once from prayer when we find
it dull and difficult, must stand abashed.
Our love, too is crucified, but we dislike and shun the cross of
suffering. Our sins are mountain high, but we dread the penance
with which that mountain may be leveled.
Yet, if suffering and trial came to the Little Flower, as they
came to Mary and all the saints, shall we doubt that they are
the mark of Gods special love when He sends them to us?
The Novena Prayers for Day 5
Three Hail Marys in honour of the Little Flower for the
intention of the novena.
Let us pray:
St. Therese, little victim for the sins of the world, we have
not the courage to ask for suffering nor to offer ourselves as a
sacrifice for sin. But we should be ashamed to let thee take
upon thyself punishment that our sins have deserved. So we
promise God humbly to accept whatever suffering or sacrifice He
may send us either for our sins or the sins of others or as a
sign of His love.
We promise, too, to so penance for our sins by charity toward
others, patience under trial, and by the dutiful and loyal
practice of our religion. Grant that, when sorrow or suffering
comes to those we love or for whom we offer this novena, they
may remember Christ on Calvary, Mary at the foot of the cross,
and thee, Little Flower, embracing the crucifix and use these
trials to wipe out their debt of sin and to increase their love
of God. Obtain for us the special favours we are asking during
(Here pause and silently mention the special graces or blessings
you are seeking through the novena.)
V. We fly to thy protection and intercession, O Little Flower of
R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us
pray: O Lord, Who hast said, ''Unless you become as little
children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,'' grant us,
we beseech Thee, so to follow the footsteps of the virgin St.
Therese in humility and simplicity of heart that we may obtain
the rewards of eternity. Who livest and reignest world without end
End of Chapter 5