|VATICAN CHRISTMAS EVE MASS, 1944|
PERCHED ATOP THE CONFESSIONAL
FOR A BETTER VIEW
At the age of 13--on Christmas eve in fact--she underwent her well-known “second conversion” around this very issue.
The French custom at the time was for the children of the house to leave their shoes by the fireplace the night before Christmas for the parents to fill with candy. As the youngest of the five Martin daughters (several of whom had already left for the cloister), Thérèse was the last to keep up the ritual. Returning from the vigil Mass that night in 1886, her [single] father [the mother had died when Therese was 4 ½], tired and uncharacteristically cranky, passed the pair of filled shoes and remarked: “Well, fortunately this is the last year.” Thérèse overheard and ran upstairs, ostensibly to take off her hat.
Her impulse was to burst into tears and make a scene, as she ordinarily would have. Instead, she paused halfway up the stairs, willed herself to smile, turned around, marched back to the parlor, embraced her father and opened her gifts with joy, good cheer, and thanks.
The episode marked a turning point: the entry into the third, and what would be by far the most fruitful, portion of her spiritual life. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, she wrote:
On that night of light the third period of my life began, the most beautiful of them all, the most filled with graces from heaven…In an instant, the work that I hadn’t been able to do in ten years—Jesus did it, being content with the good will that I had no shortage of. Like his apostles, I could say, 'Lord, I fished all night without catching anything' [cf. Lk. 5: 5-10]. Then, more merciful toward me than He was toward his disciples, Jesus Himself took the net, threw it out, and brought it back in, full of fish…He made me into a fisher of souls [Mk. 1: 17]. I felt a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire that I never felt so strongly...In a word, I felt charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself in order to please others, and ever afterward I was happy!...” [SS, p. 104]
Something to shoot for...today...tomorrow...in the next few decades...
I am grateful for you all. Wishing you hope, joy, converted hearts, and the peace that passeth all understanding on this most beautiful night of lights....