Spiritual Torment

But "spiritual torment" was to be her lot for years to come, slackening only when she started preparing for her long-awaited First Communion. At the age of eleven, on 8 May 1884, she received her first "kiss of love," a sense of being united with Jesus, of His giving Himself to her, as she gave herself to Him. Her eucharistic hunger made her long for daily communion. Confirmation, "the sacrament of Love," which she received on 14 June 1884, filled her with ecstasy. Holidays in Trouville and Saint-Ouen-le-Pin were followed, however, by a retreat that triggered a crisis of scruples, lasting seventeen months. Her sister, Marie, helped her to overcome it. But Marie in her turn entered the Lisieux Carmel on 15 October 1886. This was too much for the adolescent Thérèse, who had now lost a third mother. She was nearly fourteen and already strikingly good-looking, 1.62 meters tall, with magnificent eyes and long hair. She attracted notice on the beach in Trouville, where people nicknamed her "the tall English girl." But she was tormented by an inner anguish that found relief only when, in November 1886, she appealed to her four brothers and sisters in heaven to intercede for her. Even then, she remained hypersensitive, weak-willed, "crying at having cried"!

Every time Thérèse even imagined that someone was criticizing her or didn't appreciate her, she burst into tears. Then she would cry because she had cried! Any inner wall she built to contain her wild emotions crumpled immediately before the tiniest comment.

How could she possibly enter the Carmel—something she had dreamed of since the age of nine as a way of living with Jesus—in this pitiful state?

Thérèse wanted to enter the Carmelite convent to join Pauline and Marie but how could she convince others that she could handle the rigors of Carmelite life, if she couldn't handle her own emotional outbursts? She had prayed that Jesus would help her but there was no sign of an answer.