St. Thérèse's First Communion
8th May 1884
Source: Story of a Soul [St. Thérèse's autobiogrphy], Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.
At last the most wonderful day of my life arrived1, and I can remember every tiny detail of those heavenly hours: my joyous waking up at dawn, the tender, reverent kisses of the mistresses and older girls2, the room where we dressed -- filled with the white "snowflakes" in which one after another we were clothed -- and above all, our entry into chapel and the singing of the morning hymn: "O Altar of God, Where the Angels are Hovering." I would not tell you everything, even if I could, for there are certain things which lose their fragrance in the open air, certain thoughts so intimate that they cannot be translated into earthly language without losing at once their deep and heavenly meaning. How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart -- it was truly a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved and said, "I love You, and I give myself to You forever." Jesus asked for nothing, He claimed no sacrifice. Long before that, He and little Thérèse had seen and understood one another well, but on that day it was more than a meeting -- it was a complete fusion. We were no longer two, for Thérèse had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the mighty ocean. Jesus alone remained -- the Master and the King. Had she not asked Him to take away her liberty, the liberty she feared? She felt so weak and frail that she wanted to unite herself forever to His Divine Strength. And her joy became so vast, so deep, that now it overflowed. Soon she was weeping, to the astonishment of her companions, who said to one another later on: "Why did she cry? Was there something on her conscience? Perhaps it was because her mother3 was not there, or the Carmelite sister4 she loves so much." It was beyond them that all the joy of Heaven had entered one small, exiled heart, and that it was too frail and weak to bear it without tears. As if the absence of my mother could make me unhappy on the day of my First Communion! As all Heaven entered my soul when I received Jesus, my mother came to me as well. Nor could I cry because you5 were not there, we were closer than ever before. It was joy alone, deep ineffable joy that filled my heart.
That afternoon I was chosen to read the "Act of Consecration to Our Lady." I suppose they chose me because I had lost my earthly mother so young. Anyway, I put my whole heart into it and begged Our Lady to guard me always. I felt sure she was looking at me with that lovely smile which had cured me and delivered me, and I knew all I owed her; for it was she herself, that morning of the 8th of May, who placed Jesus in my soul, "the flower of the field and the lily of the valley."
When evening came that lovely day, Father led his little queen by the hand to Carmel, and there I saw you made the bride of Christ6. I saw your veil, all white like mine, and your crown of roses. There was no bitterness in all my joy, for I hoped to join you7 and wait for Heaven at your side.
I was very moved by the family feast prepared at Les Buissonets8 and delighted with the little watch which Father gave me. Yet my happiness was very tranquil, with an inward peace no earthly thing could touch. Night came at last to end my lovely evening, for darkness falls even on the brightest day. Only the first day of Communion in Eternity will never end.
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1. The day of St. Thérèse's First Communion, 8th May 1884.
2. In preparation for their First Communion, St. Thérèse and her classmates spent the final days before the great day in retreat at the Benedictine school where they studied. By "mistresses" is meant the teaching nuns, by "older girls," her fellow communicants.
3. St. Thérèse's mother had died in 1777, when Thérèse was four years old.
4. Pauline, who was a Carmelite at the Carmel of Lisieux.
5. This portion of St. Thérèse's autobiography was written at the request of her sister, Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus) who was Prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux at that time. Thus the "you" refers to Pauline.
6. On that same day, Pauline took her religious vows, making her Profession as a Discalced Carmelite nun.
7. Meaning, to enter Carmel herself.
8. The home of the Martin family -- Thérèse's home.