In January 1897 Saint Thérèse received a request from her sister Pauline—the prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux, Mother Agnès of Jesus—to write a poem as a gift for her feast day on the 21st, the feast of Saint Agnes.
In Carmelite monasteries, the feast days of prioresses are always joyful events. There is usually a festive dinner; there may be a goûté, which is a formal tea in the afternoon; and, there is always a lively period of recreation in the evening after supper with entertainment provided by members of the community.
Saint Thérèse fulfilled Pauline’s request and wrote the poem, “My Joy!” (PN 45). She indicated a tune to which it could be sung: Où vas-tu petit oiseau? (Where are you going, little bird?), which was a romance by Léopold Amat that was popular at the time. Thérèse wrote the first line of the song, Rêve, parfum ou frais murmure (Dream, fragrance or cool breeze) in the upper right-hand corner of her copy that she gave to Abbé Bellière, as you see in the image below.
The archives of the Carmel of Lisieux tell us that Saint Thérèse indicated to Pauline that the poem was like an autobiography. When she gave it to her sister, she said, “my entire soul is there!”
In a world that is severely tried and tested today, we all are in need of a cool breeze, a fresh perspective: we are in need of words of encouragement from Saint Thérèse that can restore a sense of joy in our lives and in our world. This autobiographical poem, only seven stanzas, provides a timely source for that encouragement.
Our first day of the novena comes from Manuscript C of Saint Thérèse’s autobiographical manuscripts, where she talks about her trial of faith. The seven stanzas of the poem follow. The ninth day of the novena concludes with a passage from Thérèse’s last conversations with her sister Pauline, in the weeks before Thérèse died. Once again she talks about trials and trust.
Where can we find joy? Thérèse will show us through her writings and her conversation with Pauline that joy can be found only within our hearts—where God is found.
All source material for this novena comes from the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, unless otherwise indicated.
We are grateful to artist Natalie Ewert for permission to use her copyrighted artwork in our featured image. You can explore more of her work at her Etsy shop, hallowedspace.
Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.