An insider’s look into the Little Flower’s final hours

Posted on October 31, 2010


Hailed by Pope Pius X as “the greatest saint of modern times,” St. Therese of the Child Jesus shows a way to holiness bereft of magnificence. Ordinary people like us can follow in the footsteps of the Saint of the Little Way, who says:

Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ … On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.

One of the simple desires of St. Therese was to die a holy death. As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, let us visit a moving account of her passing on to heaven. At 24 (my age), Therese died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897.

Her sister Celine Martin, also known as Sr. Genevieve of Teresa, recounts that day.

“About mid-afternoon on the day she died she was seized with strange pains all over her body. So, she placed one arm on Mother Agnes’ shoulder and the other on mine, and we supported her like that for a few minutes. Just then the clock struck three, and we could not help being deeply moved. What was she thinking then? For us she was a striking image of Jesus on the Cross; I regarded this coincidence as full of mysterious significance.

“Her agony began immediately after this, a long terrible agony. She could be heard repeating: ‘Oh! This is sheer suffering, because there is no consolation, not even one. O my God! I love him though! O kind Blesses Virgin, come to my aid! … If this is agony, what will death be like? … Mother, I assure you the chalice is full to the brim …. Yes, God, as much as you wish … But have pity on me! No, I would never have thought it possible to suffer so much … never, never! Tomorrow it will be still worse. Ah, well so much the better!’ The poor little martyr’s words were broken and heart-rending, but they always bore the stamp of perfect resignation.

“Mother Prioress now summoned the community, and Sister Thérèse welcomed them with a pretty smile. Then she clasped her crucifix to her and seemed to hand herself over entirely to suffering, so to speak. Her breathing was laboured; a cold sweat bathed her face, and soaked her clothes, her pillow and the sheets; she was shaking all over.

“Sometimes in the course of her illness, Sister Thérèse had said to us (her own sisters): ‘My dear sisters, you must not be upset if, when I am dying, my last look is for one of you rather than another; I don’t know what I will do; it will be whatever God wants. If he leaves me free, however, my last goodbye will be for Mother Marie de Gonzague, because she is my prioress.’ She repeated these words to us a few days before she died.

“Now, during her agony, just a few moments before she died, I rendered her some little service. She gave me a beautiful smile, and a long penetrating look. A kind of shiver ran through the community. Then Thérèse’s eyes sought Mother Prioress and rested on her, but with their habitual expression. Mother Prioress, thinking the agony was going to be prolonged, dismissed the community a few minutes later. The angelic patient then turned to her and said, ‘Mother, is this not the agony, am I not going to die?’ And, when Mother replied that it could take a while longer, she said, in a low, plaintive voice: ‘All right, then! Let it go on …. Oh! I would not want to suffer less!’ Then, looking at her crucifix: ‘Oh! … I love him …. My God. I … love … you!’

“These were her last words. The words were hardly out of her mouth when, to our great surprise, she collapsed, her head a little to the right. Then, suddenly, she sat up, as if a mysterious voice had called her; she opened her eyes and fixed them radiantly on a spot a little above the statue of our Lady. She stayed that way for a few minutes, about as long as it would take to recite the Creed slowly.

“I have often tried to analyse this ecstasy since then, and tried to understand that look of hers, which was not just an expression of beatitude. There was an element of great astonishment in it, and her attitude expressed a very dignified assurance. I thought we had been present at her judgment. On the one hand, she had, as the Gospel says, ‘been found worthy to stand before the Son of man’ (Lk 21:36), and on the other, she saw that the gifts which were about to be showered on her were infinitely beyond her immense desires. For there was another expression joined with that of astonishment: she seemed unable to cope with the sight of so much love; she was like someone who is assaulted several times, tries to fight back, but because of his weakness he is happily vanquished. It was too much for her; she closed her eyes and breathed her last. It was 7 p.m. on Thursday, 30 September, 1897.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, pray for us!

Courtesty of the Eternal Word Television Network