Grace at Christmas

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therese“It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion…I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy!” —St. Therese

When Therese was fourteen years old, something miraculous happened to her during the wee hours of Christmas morning. She had just returned from Midnight Mass with her father and her older sister Celine. In France on Christmas Eve, the tradition holds that children leave their shoes out and their parents put little gifts inside. At fourteen, Therese was a bit old for this, since most children had outgrown the custom by that age. But Therese was babied by her family, being the youngest.

As happy little Therese hurried upstairs to take off her hat in anticipation of searching her shoes, she overheard her tired father say quietly to himself, “Thank goodness that’s the last time we shall have this kind of thing!” Therese stopped what she was doing and did not say anything, but Celine knew her little sister’s feelings had been hurt and she was fully expecting Therese to burst into tears over what their father had said.

But surprisingly, the tears did not come. She later wrote in her autobiography that, in that moment, Jesus came into her heart and did for her what she could not have done on her own: He had made her think of her father’s feelings over her own. So, forcing back tears, she went into the parlor and pretended she hadn’t heard a thing, and acted excited over the gifts in her shoes. She would later write that this Christmas was her “conversion.” The oversensitive Therese existed no more; she was given by Jesus the miraculous opportunity and grace to think of her father’s feelings. She didn’t want him to know she had overheard him, because he was such a loving father that he would never have hurt her feelings on purpose. God’s grace at that moment gave her the maturity to swallow the hurt and try to please her father.

Copyright 2009 Nancy Carabio Belanger

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