September 24, 1890)
The end of Thérèse's time as a postulant arrived on the January 10, 1889 with her taking of the habit. From that time she wore the 'rough homespun and brown scapular, white wimple and veil, leather belt with rosary, woollen 'stockings', rope sandals. " Her father's health having temporarily stabilized he was able to attend, though twelve days after her ceremony a particularly serious crisis led to his being put in the asylum of the Bon Sauveur in Caen where he would remain for three years. In this period Thérèse deepened the sense of her vocation; to lead a hidden life, to pray and offer her suffering for priests, to forget herself, to increase discreet acts of charity. She wrote, "I applied myself especially to practice little virtues, not having the facility to perform great ones." "In her letters from this period of her novitiate, Thérèse returned over and over to the theme of littleness, referring to herself as a grain of sand, an image she borrowed from Pauline...'Always littler, lighter, in order to be lifted more easily by the breeze of love.' The remainder of her life would be defined by retreat and subtraction." She absorbed the work of John of the Cross, spiritual reading uncommon at the time, especially for such a young nun. "Oh! what insights I have gained from the works of our holy father, St. John of the Cross! When I was seventeen and eighteen, I had no other spiritual nourishment..." She felt a kinship with this classic writer of the Carmelite Order (though nothing seems to have drawn her to the writing of Teresa of Avila), and with enthusiasm she read his works, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Way of Purification, the Spiritual Canticle, the Living Flame of Love. Passages from these writings are woven into everything she herself said and wrote. The fear of God, which she found in certain sisters, paralyzed her. "My nature is such that fear makes me recoil, with LOVE not only do I go forward, I fly"
With the new name a Carmelite receives when she enters the Order, there is always an epithet - example, Teresa of Jesus, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Anne of the Angels. The epithet singles out the Mystery which she is supposed to contemplate with special devotion. "Thérèse's names in religion - she had two of them - must be taken together to define her religious significance." The first name was promised to her at nine, by Mother Marie de Gonzague, of the Child Jesus, and was given to her at her entry into the convent. In itself, veneration of the childhood of Jesus was a Carmelite heritage of the seventeenth century - it concentrated upon the staggering humiliation of divine majesty in assuming the shape of extreme weakness and helplessness. The French Oratory of Jesus and Pierre de Bérulle renewed this old devotional practice. Yet when she received the veil, Thérèse herself asked Mother Marie de Gonzague to confer upon her the second name of the Holy Face. During the course of her novitiate, contemplation of the Holy Face had nourished her inner life. This is an image representing the disfigured face of Jesus during His Passion. And she meditated on certain passages from the prophet Isaiah, (Chapter 53). Six weeks before her death she remarked to Pauline, "The words in Isaiah: 'no stateliness here, no majesty, no beauty,...one despised, left out of all human reckoning; How should we take any account of him, a man so despised (Is 53:2-3) - these words were the basis of my whole worship of the Holy Face. I, too, wanted to be without comeliness and beauty..unknown to all creatures." On the eve of her profession she wrote to Sister Marie, Tomorrow I shall be the bride of Jesus 'whose face was hidden and whom no man knew' - what a union and what a future!. The meditation also helped her understand the humiliating situation of her father.
Usually the novitiate preceding profession lasted a year. Sister Thérèse hoped to make her final commitment on or after January 11, 1890 but, considered still too young for a final commitment, her profession was postponed. She would spend eight months longer than the standard year as an unprofessed novice. As 1889 ended, her old home in the world Les Buissonnets, was dismantled, the furniture divided among the Guérins and the Carmel. It was not until September 8, 1890, aged 17 and a half, that she made her religious profession. The retreat in anticipation of her irrevocable promises was characterized by absolute aridity and on the eve of her profession she gave way to panic. "What she wanted was beyond her. Her vocation was a sham." Reassured by the novice mistress and mother Marie de Gonzague, the next day her religious profession went ahead, 'flooded with a river of peace'. Against her heart she wore her letter of profession written during her retreat. "May creatures be nothing for me, and may I be nothing for them, but may You, Jesus, be everything! Let nobody be occupied with me, let me be looked upon as one to be trampled underfoot...may Your will be done in me perfectly...Jesus, allow me to save very many souls; let no soul be lost today; let all the souls in purgatory be saved.." On September 24, the public ceremony followed filled with 'sadness and bitterness'. "Thérèse found herself young enough, alone enough, to weep over the absence of Bishop Hugonin, Père Pichon, in Canada; and her own father, still confined in the asylum." But Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the prioress of Tours, "The angelic child is seventeen and a half, with the sense of a 30 year old, the religious perfection of an old and accomplished novice, and possession of herself, she is a perfect nun."
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“Thus was my first years life in the woods completed; and the second year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)