Do you know what influence the Servant of God’s spiritual director might have had on her decision to join the Carmel?
Strictly speaking, she didn’t have a spiritual director. She saw what she had to do so clearly that she didn’t feel the need to ask. Putting her plan into action proved extremely difficult. As we had the same aspirations, I promised to help her in every way I could.
She then revealed her plans to our dear father, which was a very hard thing for my little sister to do. All day long, at her request, I joined her in praying for a positive outcome to the discussion. It was a complete success, but the same could not be said with regards to our uncle, Mr. Guérin. He prohibited her from joining, saying it would create a public scandal, and be the only case of a 15-year-old child joining a Carmelite convent in the whole of France.
However, after a few anxious weeks and much praying and suffering on Thérèse’s part, our uncle suddenly changed his mind and gave her his consent. Thérèse saw this victory as God compensating her for the three days she had spent in anxiety, during which, she says, “I felt I was all alone, and I found no consolation on earth or from heaven; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me” (Ms A 51 r).
The opposition put up by Fr. Delatroëtte, the Superior of the Carmel, was more difficult to overcome, so difficult in fact that she would join the convent without having succeeded in convincing him. And yet she tried: I accompanied her and my father to Fr Delatroëtte’s house. I admired how Thérèse, who was normally so shy, dared to explain herself and expound the reasons behind her desire to join the Carmel immediately. But she was met with a resounding “no”.
So my father took her to Bayeux [to see Bishop Hugonin]. She relates this new attempt of hers in her manuscript (MS A 53v–55v). As the Bishop’s answer was evasive and under the condition of Fr. Delatroëtte’s consent, Thérèse believed her cause was all but lost. She, therefore, decided to take advantage of her upcoming trip to Rome to ask the Holy Father for the permission she desired. Throughout the trip, she never lost sight of what had now become her principal objective.
She received an audience with the Holy Father on Sunday 20th November 1887 with the pilgrims of the dioceses of Coutances, Bayeux, and Nantes, and overcame her natural shyness to express her request.
The Holy Father replied that she would join the Carmel if it was God’s will. The evasive nature of this answer deeply upset Thérèse, but she bore it with calmness and surrender, convinced that she had done everything in her power to respond to the Divine Master’s call.
Back in Lisieux, she resumed her pleas to the Bishop, who finally gave his consent on 28th December 1887. Her wish had been to join the Carmel without delay as soon as she received this authorisation. She was, however, obliged to postpone her entrance until after Lent 1888. The main reason for this delay was no doubt to placate the Superior, Fr Delatroëtte, who remained opposed to her entrance.
The Servant of God found this last delay particularly agonising. The devil, wanting to discourage her no doubt, inspired her with thoughts of becoming lax in her spiritual life. Far from listening to him, the Servant of God led a serious and mortified life during these last months. These mortifications consisted of doing helpful deeds without any recognition, refraining from answering back, and breaking her will. Having witnessed all this, I myself was greatly edified.