St. Thèrése put two titles to her name after she became a Carmelite nun. She holds those two titles in this photo. One was Thèrése of the Child Jesus, the other was Thèrése of the Holy Face of Jesus. She wished to be known by these two titles: Thèrése of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
The titles came from religious experiences she had. The first occurred on Christmas day, 1886, when she was 13 years old. Shorlty afterwards, she had an experience of the Passion of Jesus, which took place one Sunday of the next year, when she was 14. She describes the two experiences in chapter 5 of her autobiography. Her experience of the Passion of Jesus involved a murderer.
“One Sunday, looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the divine hands. I felt great sorrow when thinking this blood was falling to the ground unnoticed. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls.
The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: “I thirst!” These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet, it was not the souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned with the desire to snatch them from the eternal flames.”
At the time a notorious murderer, Pranzini had been condemned to death and refused to see a priest. Thèrése was deeply affected by the sensational story and asked Jesus, “feeling that I myself could do nothing,” to be merciful to him. She had Mass offered for him, she begged God’s mercy.
Afterwards the newspaper reported a priest offered Pranzini a crucifix as he went to his death and he kissed it fervently three times. Thèrése believed her prayers were answered “Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance!”
For Thèrése the Passion of Jesus was a sign of God’s mercy. His words “I thirst,” were more than an expression of physical thirst, they expressed his desire to show a merciful love to the world.
The teen age girl’s experience reminds us that God’s graces can come to anyone, at any time. The experience left her with a lasting conviction, “I myself can do nothing.” One of her prayerbooks carries a remembrance of her experience.