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Father Anthony Ho

Therese meets the bishop 

Voices March 7, 2018

When told she was too young to enter the Carmelite convent, Therese of Lisieux wore her hair up to make herself look older in a meeting with the bishop. (From the Pews photo)

Therese of Lisieux experienced the power of prayers on several occasions, including when she was cured of illness while her sisters prayed for her, and when she experienced great peace after praying to her four siblings in heaven concerning her scruples.

In Christmas 1886, Therese experienced her “conversion.” Out of consideration for her father, she controlled her emotion during a disappointment, and in that moment, the Lord granted her the self-mastery she seemed to lose at the death of her mother when she was four.

This “conversion” marked the beginning of a new phrase in the life of Therese. Her love for God grew and she decided to become a religious in the Carmelite convent.

On Pentecost in 1887 Therese told her father of her decision to enter Carmel, and obtained his consent. However, there were obstacles due to her young age. When Therese told her uncle of her decision to enter Carmel, he declared that to enter such a severe Order at the age of 15 seemed to him against all common sense. He said he would oppose it in every way possible and nothing short of a miracle would make him change his mind.

Therese turned to prayer and a few days later her uncle's attitude was changed. He told her the miracle was no longer needed. He had prayed God to guide his heart aright, and his prayer had been heard. He embraced Therese with fatherly affection, saying with much feeling: “Go in peace, my dear child, you are a privileged little flower which Our Lord wishes to gather. I will put no obstacle in the way.”

However, after receiving her uncle's consent, Therese encountered another disappointment. She was told that the superior of the Carmelites would not allow her to enter until she was 21. Therese went with her father to lay her request before the superior. He received her very coldly, and could not be induced to change his mind. But he added, “Of course, I am only the bishop’s delegate; if he allows you to enter, I shall have nothing more to say.”

Therese's father promised her that, if she wished, he would take her to Bayeux to see the bishop. So, on Oct. 31, 1887, they went to Bayeux, where Therese told the bishop of her desire to enter Carmel. She said, “I have wished to give myself to God from the time I was three.”

The bishop decided that before giving Therese an answer an interview with the superior was absolutely necessary. Therese was disappointed and shed tears in the presence of the bishop, who was touched and comforted her kindly.

He said, “All is not lost, little one, but I am very glad that you are going to Rome with your good father; you will thus strengthen your vocation. Instead of weeping, you ought to rejoice. I am going to Lisieux next week, and I will talk to the superior about you. You shall certainly have my answer when you are in Italy.”

The bishop took Therese and her father to the garden, and her father told the bishop that to make herself look older, Therese had put up her hair for the first time that very morning.

The bishop did not forget this, and even after Therese became a nun, he loved to repeat the story about the hair.

Therese wrote, “I must say I should prefer my little secret to have been kept.”

The vicar-general who assisted the bishop remarked that such a thing had never been seen – a father as anxious to give his child to God as the child was to offer herself.

                                                小德蘭覲見主教

小德蘭她深深感受到祈禱的力量。在她三位姐姐為她祈禱時,聖母治好了她的病。後來又藉著天堂四位表親們的轉禱,得以克服內心過度的顧慮,嚐到極甘飴的的平安。

1886年的聖誕日,小德蘭經歷她個人的「皈依」。為了不讓父親難受,小德蘭對一次原會很失望的遭遇,成功地掌控了自己的情緒:天主賞給了她特別的聖寵,能夠重拾自她四歲時母親死後,失去的自控能力。

這「皈依」成為小德蘭生命中的一個新里程;她愛主的心與日俱增,決定進入加爾默羅修會。

1887年五旬節,小德蘭把修道的決定告訴父親,且得到他的准許;不過,她小小的年紀,成了她償願的障礙。毋怪,當她舅父得悉她這心願時,極力反對,認為加爾默羅修會嚴厲的規戒,加諸於小德蘭身上,簡直荒謬,表示不惜一切去阻止,除非是聖蹟,他絕對不會改變他的看法。

小德蘭熱切祈禱,期望舅父能改變初衷。幾日後,舅父態度果然有變,說明甚至不需要聖蹟,他會支持小德蘭的心願,更給她一個父愛深深的擁抱,說:「平安去吧,我親愛的孩子!你是天主要收集得到特恩的小花。我不會阻礙你的。」

即使得到舅父的同意,小德蘭仍面對另一阻滯:聽得加爾默羅修院代表主教的長上要她等到二十一歲時,才准許她加入修會。雖然小德蘭和父親去見長上,卻遭到冷淡的對待,他亦不會改變主意 ── 但他加說:「當然,我只是主教的代表;若然他准許你入會,我將無話可說。」

1887年10月31日,小德蘭隨父親到葉貝覲見主教,向主教表白進加爾默羅修會修道的意願。小德蘭說:「我自三歲已願意把自己奉獻給天主了。」但是,主教說在作最後決定前還是要和長上討論。小德蘭感到失望,即時熱淚盈眶。主教好言安慰她:「一切沒有失去,小女兒,但我很高興你和你的好父親要到羅馬朝聖,你的聖召將被堅強。你不應哭泣,但應喜樂。下星期我會去里修,讓我和長上商討一下。你在意大利時將會有我的答案。」

主教把小德蘭和她父親帶到花園。父親對主教說 小德蘭特意當天清晨,把頭髮紮起為使自己看去較年長一些。主教難忘此事,在小德蘭成為修女後,仍常提這事,並津津樂道。小德蘭寫著:「我會寧願我的小秘密被保守著。」協助主教的副主教說他從未見過一位父親如此渴望把孩子奉獻給天主,就如孩子渴望把自己奉獻給天主。