The Dying of the Little Flower

From The Story of a Soul (L’Histoire d’une Ame):
The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Therese Martin (of Lisieux)

At last dawned the eternal day. It was Thursday, September 30,
1897. In the morning, the sweet Victim, her eyes fixed on Our
Lady’s statue, spoke thus of her last night on earth: “Oh! with
what fervour I have prayed to her! . . . And yet it has been pure
agony, without a ray of consolation. . . . Earth’s air is failing
me: when shall I breathe the air of Heaven?”

For weeks she had been unable to raise herself in bed, but, at
half-past two in the afternoon, she sat up and exclaimed: “Dear
Mother, the chalice is full to overflowing! I could never have
believed that it was possible to suffer so intensely. . . . I can
only explain it by my extreme desire to save souls. . . .” And a
little while after: “Yes, all that I have written about my thirst
for suffering is really true! I do not regret having surrendered
myself to Love.”

She repeated these last words several times. A little later she
added: “Mother, prepare me to die well.” The good Mother Prioress
encouraged her with these words: “My child, you are quite ready to
appear before God, for you have always understood the virtue of
humility.” Then, in striking words, Therese bore witness to
herself:

“Yes, I feel it; my soul has ever sought the truth. . . . I have
understood humility of heart!”

. . . . . . .

At half-past four, her agony began–the agony of this “Victim of
Divine Love.” When the Community gathered round her, she thanked
them with the sweetest smile, and then, completely given over to
love and suffering, the Crucifix clasped in her failing hands, she
entered on the final combat. The sweat of death lay heavy on her
brow . . . she trembled . . . but, as a pilot, when close to
harbour, is not dismayed by the fury of the storm, so this soul,
strong in faith, saw close at hand the beacon-lights of Heaven,
and valiantly put forth every effort to reach the shore.

As the convent bells rang the evening Angelus, she fixed an
inexpressible look upon the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, the
Star of the Sea. Was it not the moment to repeat her beautiful
prayer:

“O thou who camest to smile on me in the morn of my life, come
once again and smile, Mother, for now it is eventide!”[15]

A few minutes after seven, turning to the Prioress, the poor
little Martyr asked: “Mother, is it not the agony? . . . am I not
going to die?” “Yes, my child, it is the agony, but Jesus perhaps
wills that it be prolonged for some hours.” In a sweet and
plaintive voice she replied: “Ah, very well then . . . very well
. . . I do not wish to suffer less!”

Then, looking at her crucifix:

“Oh! . . . I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . Thee!”

These were her last words. She had scarcely uttered them when, to
our great surprise, she sank down quite suddenly, her head
inclined a little to the right, in the attitude of the Virgin
Martyrs offering themselves to the sword; or rather, as a Victim
of Love, awaiting from the Divine Archer the fiery shaft, by which
she longs to die.

Suddenly she raised herself, as though called by a mysterious
voice; and opening her eyes, which shone with unutterable
happiness and peace, fixed her gaze a little above the statue of
Our Lady. Thus she remained for about the space of a _Credo,_ when
her blessed soul, now become the prey of the “Divine Eagle,” was
borne away to the heights of Heaven.

(From the Project Gutenberg Ebook)

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