Therese loved to say her prayers. When she was still quite a baby her mother had no trouble in making her join her little hands and offer her heart to God as soon as she awoke. She often asked to be taken to church, and would beg so hard that they were obliged to grant her request. She would not go to sleep without having once more asked God’s blessing in a prayer which her mother had taught her.
One evening, however, she fell asleep without saying it, but, waking in the middle of the night, she at once called to her mother:
“Mamma, Mamma! I haven’t said my prayer! I want to say my prayer.”
“Go to sleep, darling,” said her mother; “you shall say it tomorrow.”
But tomorrow’s prayer would be tomorrow’s prayer, and Therese must say today’s prayer. She went on imploring so piteously that her mother gave in, fearing that otherwise she would not go to sleep again.
One feast day it happened that the nurse did not take her to church during the afternoon walk. The child did not notice this until she reached home again, but then she burst into tears, saying that she wanted “to go to Mass.” She escaped from nurse, opened the front door, and ran out in the pouring rain towards the church. The nurse hurried after her and brought her back, but the poor baby cried for a whole hour, and could not be consoled.
She realized so vividly the meaning of prayer that when her parents went to Mass, and she was left at home, she tried to be quiet all the time, creeping about on tiptoe. As soon, however, as the door opened on their return, there was a tremendous outburst of joy.
The heart of Therese turned to God as instinctively as a flower to the sun.
While still a tiny child, she used to recite a certain piece of poetry with such expression that she was always being made to say it. Her smile was almost angelic when with uplifted eyes and her little hand raise, she repeated the last line:
“Dear little child with golden hair,
Where do you think is the God of love?
All over the world and everywhere,
And waiting for us in His Heaven above.”
Heaven was indeed the place to which all her thoughts tended. God gave her a special grace to realize that all imaginable happiness and joy are there, and there only shall we be fully satisfied.
This accounts for a remark which certainly sounded strange in the mouth of such an affectionate child:
“Oh, Mamma darling!” she once exclaimed, “I do wish you would die!”
At this startling declaration everyone was horrified, but poor little Therese could not understand why she should be scolded. Her eyes filled with tears as she explained:
“It is because I want you to go to Heaven, and you said we must die to get there.”
She loved her father and mother so much that she felt she could wish them nothing better than this. Her father did not mind this strange way of being loved. He was particularly fond of his youngest child, and when Madame Martin used laughingly to reprove him for spoiling her, he would answer:
“Well, why not? She is the Queen!”
The notice which everyone paid her might easily have made Therese wilful and exacting, even vain. But if she was occasionally naughty, far from excusing herself, she immediately acknowledged her fault and said she was sorry.
One day, for instance, she was on the swing, when her father called her to come and give him a kiss. she ought to have got off directly, but she would not stir, and answered pertly:
"Come and get it yourself, Papa!"
Her father paid no attention to her, but Marie's displeasure showed her she had been naughty. She was sorry at once, and with repentant sobs ran after her father and flung her arms round his neck, begging to be forgiven.
Another time she behaved in very much the same way to her mother.
One morning, before going downstairs, Madame Martin went to kiss her, but Therese, who had woke up cross, was pretending to be asleep, and immediately buried her head under the bedclothes.
I don't want anyone to look at me," she said peevishly.
Her mother told her she was not pleased, and went away.
A few minutes later, whom should she see at her side but Therese! The child managed to climb out of her cot, and stumbling over her long nightdress, had come downstairs barefooted. Her face was wet with tears.
"Mamma," she sobbed, holding out her arms to her mother, "please forgive naughty Therese! I will be good, because I want to be with the little angles in Heaven."
And her mother, knowing that she was really sorry, took her on her knee and comforted her.
Once Therese accidentally tore off a small piece of wallpaper. She was much distressed, because she knew how particular her father was about the order of the house. He happened just then to be out. Another child might have been glad to escape notice, and on being questioned might perhaps even have told an untruth. But Therese was too straightforward for this. When her father came home four hours later, and everyone else had forgotten the little mishap, she at once whispered to Marie:
"Tell Papa that I tore the paper."
And then she stood like a criminal awaiting condemnation, till her father told her he was not angry with her.
A printable file of this chapter can be found below as well as a coloring picture.