Before I left the world, God gave me the consolation of contemplating at close range the souls of little children. As I was the youngest in the family, I never had experienced this happiness before. Here are the unfortunate circumstances that made it possible.
A poor woman, a relative of our maid, died when still very young and left three very little children; during the woman’s illness, we took care of the two little girls; the older one was not yet six. I spent the whole day with them, and it was a great pleasure for me to see with what simplicity they believed everything I said.
Holy baptism must implant a very deep seed of the theological virtues in souls since from childhood these virtues are already evident and since the hope of future goods suffices to have them accept sacrifices.
When I wanted to see my two little ones reconciled to each other, instead of offering toys and candy to the one who gave in to the other, I spoke to them about the eternal rewards that little Jesus would give in heaven to good little children; the older one, whose reason was beginning to develop, looked at me with eyes that were bright with joy, asking me a thousand charming questions about little Jesus and His beautiful heaven and promising me enthusiastically always to give in to her sister. She said she would never in her life forget what the “big girl” told her; this was what she called me.
Seeing innocent souls at such close range, I understood what a misfortune it was when they were not formed in their early years, when they are soft as wax upon which one can imprint either virtue or vice. I understood, too, what Jesus said: “But whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” [cf. Mk 9:42].
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Featured image: End of the day – Now I lay me is a halftone photomechanical stereograph print that was issued sometime in the latter half of the 19th century or early 20th century. This particular print comes from the Stereograph Collection of the Boston Public Library Print Department. You can see more images from the Boston Public Library on Flickr (Some rights reserved).