St. Thérèse’s Christmas Conversion
“God would have to work a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant.” –St. Therese of Lisieux
In her school years, St. Therese had a sensitive personality. However, on Christmas in 1886 the Lord performed an unforgettable miracle that brought her to the third and most beautiful period of her life.Grace intervened to change her life. On Christmas day in 1886, the fourteen-year-old hurried home from Midnight Mass at Saint Peter’s Cathedral. In France, young children left their shoes by the hearth at Christmas, and then parents would fill them with gifts. By fourteen, most children outgrew this custom. But her sister Céline didn’t want Thérèse to grow up. So they continued to leave presents in “baby” Thérèse’s shoes.
As she and Céline climbed the stairs to take off their hats, their father’s voice rose up from the parlor below. Standing over the shoes, he sighed, “Thank goodness that’s the last time we shall have this kind of thing!” Thérèse froze, and her sister looked at her helplessly. Céline knew that in a few minutes Thérèse would be in tears over what her father had said.But the tantrum never came. Something incredible had happened to Thérèse. Jesus had come into her heart and done what she could not do herself. He had made her more sensitive to her father’s feelings than her own.She swallowed her tears, walked slowly down the stairs, and exclaimed over the gifts in the shoes, as if she had never heard a word her father said. The following year she entered the convent. In her autobiography she referred to this Christmas as her “conversion.”
The holy Child’s strength supplanted her weakness. The strong character she had had at the age of four and a half was suddenly restored to her. A ten-year struggle had ended. Her tears had dried up. Freed at last from herself, she embarked on her “Giant’s Race.” “My heart was filled with charity. I forgot myself to please others and, in doing so, became happy myself.” Now, she could fulfill her dream of entering the Carmel as soon as possible to love Jesus and pray for sinners.