Thérèse entered the Benedictine abbey as a part-time boarder in October 1881. Pauline’s task with her seemed to be over; she was twenty years old and thought that she should not delay any longer in answering the divine call which had been heard for so long.
Her attraction had, until then, brought her to her beloved Visitation of Le Mans. She asked at what age she could enter. “At twenty-two or twenty-three,” was the answer.
She gave in to this delay and waited without anxiety when, on [Thursday] 16 February 1882, a decisive grace came to modify her plans.
She describes it in these terms:
I attended the six o’clock Mass in Saint-Jacques, in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, with Papa and Marie. Suddenly, a very bright light came into my soul, the good Lord showed me clearly that it was not at the Visitation that he wanted me, but at Carmel… I must say that the memory of a friend of mine, who had been predestined to die the year before, came to mind. She certainly must have been praying for me. I had been assured that she was thinking of entering Carmel and taking the name of Sister Agnès de Jésus. I remember that I felt myself blushing with emotion and, as I was going forward and returning from Communion, I was afraid that this emotion would become apparent. I had never thought about Carmel and, in an instant, I found myself driven toward it by an irresistible attraction.
On her return to Les Buissonnets, she confided her secret to her sister Marie who, in spite of her grief, only expressed the fear that her health was too frail for such an austere rule. Seeking to comfort her, Pauline randomly picked out a spiritual bouquet from her beloved book, The Imitation of Christ and came across this passage:
“To a fervent spirit, having to make use of food, drink, clothing and other things to keep the body going is a burden.” (The Imitation of Christ, III:26) That was the answer to the objection. Her resolution being firm, she soon drew up her plans, and on the same day, she sought her generous father’s permission. He made the same remark that Marie did, but seemed pleased with the honor of offering to Carmel the first of his daughters who wanted to give themselves to God.
Circular of Agnès of Jesus (excerpts)
Read the entire circular letter here