5 Quotes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “The Story of a Soul”

“Somehow a celibate little nun who died at the age of 24 was teaching me to be a kinder wife, a more patient mother, and, most of all, a more faithful Christian.”

St.Therese of Lisieux and Jesus

Listers, many people often say that writings by many saints who were monks and nuns are hard to apply outside of the consecrated life. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, monks and nuns perhaps have more time to sit in active prayer than those who are called to the married life, but that does not mean that the spiritual advice they give is inapplicable to the outside world. For a while, I brushed those works off. I thought that those works had little to no bearing on my life. I thought that even if I were to read those works there was no possible way I could pass muster. However, an opportunity arose to read St. Thérèse of Lisieux when some of my friends decided to form a reading group. These gatherings forced me to sit down and actually listen to this holy woman. By the time I finished reading The Story of a Soul, my whole perception on my vocation completed changed. Somehow her sweet spirit and honest words rocked my world. Somehow a celibate little nun who died at the age of 24 was teaching me to be a kinder wife, a more patient mother, and, most of all, a more faithful Christian. St. Thérèse showed me that I could pass muster even though I was not a nun or missionary. She taught me with her simple words that I should be content in the vocation God gave me and not to be jealous of those who perhaps seem more blessed than myself. In other words, she showed me how to live holier by applying her “Little Way” to my life as a mother and wife. Therefore, I would like to share some excerpts from her book The Story of a Soul that made a particular impact on me.

#1 God Giving Everyone the Right Measure of Happiness

You knew all my intimate thoughts and cleared up all my doubts. I once told you how astonished I was that God does not give equal glory in heaven to all His chosen. I was afraid they were not at all equally happy. You made me bring Daddy’s tumbler and put it by the side of my thimble. You filled them both with water and asked me which was fuller. I told you they were both full to the brim and that it was impossible to put more water in them than they could hold. And so, Mother darling, you made me understand that in heaven God will give His chosen their fitting glory and that the last will have no reason to envy the first. By such means, you made me understand the most sublime mysteries and gave my soul its essential food. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 20.

#2 A Flowery Example of the Measures of Grace

I had wondered for a long time why God had preferences and why all souls did not receive an equal amount of grace […] Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.

It is just the same in the world of souls — which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.

I also understood that God’s love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul. Indeed, as it is love’s nature to humble itself, if all souls were like those of the holy doctors who have illumined the Church with the light of their doctrine, it seems that God would not have stooped low enough by entering their hearts. But God has created the baby who knows nothing and can utter only feeble cries. He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him. By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur. The sun shines equally both on cedars and on every tiny flower. In just the same way God looks after every soul as if it had no equal. All is planned for the good of every soul, exactly as the seasons are so arranged that the humblest daisy blossoms at the appointed time. — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 2-3.

#3 The Sacrifice of Sanctity

Much later, when I understood what perfection was, I realised that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself. I understood that there were many kinds of of sanctity and that each soul was free to respond to the approaches of Our Lord and to do little or much for Him — in other words,to make a choice among the sacrifices He demands. Then, just as when I was a child, I cried: “My God, I choose all. I do not want to be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing — that I should keep my own will. So take it, for I choose all that You will.” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 9.

#4 The Little Way

You know, Mother, that I have always wanted to be become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passersby. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new[…] It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven, And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001), 113.

#5 Prayer as an Upward Leap

For me, prayer is an upward leap of the heart, an untroubled glance towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love which I utter from the depths of sorrow as well as from the heights of joy. It has a supernatural grandeur which expands the soul and unites it with God. I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worth while thought. These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul. — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 140.

Author: Catherine

Catherine was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She converted to Catholicism in November 2004. She graduated from Oral Roberts University in the winter of 2005 with a degree in New Testament Biblical Studies. She married the love of her life in January 2006. She is a mother of two wonderful and rambunctious boys and hopes God will bless her with several more. She loves to read good literature and theology, she dabbles in writing, and she likes to riff bad movies.

  • Thérèse Fan

    All I can say is Beautiful! These are life-changing words for anyone who takes them to heart. It’s all about embracing who God has made us and called us each to be. Thank you for sharing these selections. I just love Thérèse!

  • Harry

    That’s beautiful stuff. I need to get my hands on some of her writings. She really illuminates the love of God- sometimes I think I’m prey to thoughts that paint God as a harsh and distant figure. Certain Saints correct this picture wonderfully (particularly Saint Faustina).

  • Colleen Anderson

    Her pre-ordained writings hand in hand with the brevity of her life have been shown to the world and had the most miraculous effect on people from all walks of life. Therese has shown everyone the true love of God, and a simple, trusting way for all to truly respond. She has converted my heart to happiness – and this from someone brought up Protestant.

  • Ron Merida

    Pray for us St. Therese! To be humble, and to kill the will, is a blueprint for resisting the devil, the flesh and the world… like St. Bridget said, ” so that being dead to the world I may live for Thee alone”

  • minto

    Her life tells that sainthood is attainable. We need not try to be someone else but what we are .

  • Cindy

    That is why she is a Doctor of the Church!!

  • I think I know nothing. But. . . the writings and thoughts of St. Therese give me hope. For myself and the troubled world in which we live.

  • Suzette

    Can someone help me. The first quote is about the thimble and the tumbler. I’m sorry I don’t believe that one person gets a thimble and another a tumbler. It is our own sin that keeps us from God. God does not give one more than another that is just not true. That would be an unjust God. One get’s more joy than another. NO. I do not believe this. We all have equal opportunity to the Glory of God. In Heaven we will all have the same blessing that is the truth of the parable of the sower in the field one who comes late will still receive the same pay as the one who was there all day laboring. This is not a true account of the intention of what she was saying. I really do not think this is what she meant. God loves all his children equally not one more and one less. One is given more and one is given less. God chose’s to show up at any given time in any of us. He can use any of us to use at any time. It is our willingness to be open to God. To let God heal us that allows him to shine through us.

    • Dane

      Perhaps we determine the size of our “thimble/tumbler” through how surrendered we are to His will in this life ?

    • Patricia

      Each is to receive fullness of faith, g lorry and love, and will totally happy and satisfied!