11th Day: Little Flower’s Miracle
A Christmas miracle of another sort happened to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Her miracle taught her the valuable lesson of selflessness.
In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, Thérèse tells the story. “A miracle on a small scale was needed to give me strength of character all at once, and God worked this long-desired miracle on Christmas Day, 1886,” she revealed. “On that blessed night, the sweet Infant Jesus, scarce an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, he made me strong and brave; he put his own weapons into my hands, so that I went from victory to victory, beginning, if I may say so, ‘to run as a giant.’”
She received “this inestimable grace of complete conversion” when she was 14, leaving behind the “extreme sensitiveness” that had made her “almost unbearable.”
This all unfolded as she and her sister Celine were returning from midnight Mass. Most children had outgrown the old French custom of receiving shoe-filled presents on Christmas Eve by that age, but the Little Flower’s sisters enjoyed indulging the “baby” of the family. Her father liked to watch her enjoyment, too.
“But the time had come when Our Lord wished to free me from childhood’s failings, and even withdraw me from its innocent pleasures,” Thérèse recalled. “On this occasion, instead of indulging me as he generally did, Papa seemed vexed, and on my way upstairs, I heard him say: ‘Really, all this is too babyish for a big girl like Thérèse, and I hope it is the last year it will happen.’ His words cut me to the quick. Céline, knowing how sensitive I was, whispered: ‘Don’t go downstairs just yet — wait a little; you would cry too much if you looked at your presents before Papa.’” But Thérèse was no longer the same.
“Choking back my tears, I ran down to the dining room, and, though my heart beat fast, I picked up my shoes and gaily pulled out all the things, looking as happy as a queen,” she wrote. “Papa laughed and did not show any trace of displeasure. …
“In an instant, Our Lord, satisfied with my goodwill, accomplished the work I had not been able to do during all these years. … Love and a spirit of self-forgetfulness took possession of me, and from that time I was perfectly happy,” she explained. She became sensitive to others, rather than focusing on herself, after that Christmas experience, for “Jesus had changed her heart.”