Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower – Book Review
“Then, overcome by joy, I cried, 'Jesus, my love. At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and then I will be all things.”– St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
The book "Story of a Soul" is an autobiography written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun. St. Thérèse, also known as St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, lived in the late 19th century and is a prominent figure in Catholicism.
The autobiography was written in the form of a spiritual memoir and was published posthumously. In "Story of a Soul," St. Thérèse reflects on her life, her spiritual journey, and her deep devotion to God. The book provides insights into her "Little Way," a spiritual path emphasising simplicity, humility, and childlike trust in God.
St. Thérèse describes her experiences, struggles, and the small acts of love and sacrifice she believed could lead to holiness. The book has become a classic in Christian literature and has had a profound impact on many readers, inspiring them to seek a closer relationship with God through a life of simplicity and devotion.
Because we Catholics have such heroic saints to look back on as models for how we live our lives we can feel as if we're not likewise being called upon to great acts of self-sacrifice for Our Lord.
Yet St. Thérèse in "Story of a Soul" demonstrates to us just how much of a gift being 'little' can be. How being small, and largely unnoticed by the world, by no means makes us any less in the eyes of God.
Born in 1873 in Alençon, France, St. Thérèse is a canonised saint who feels much closer to our modern world. Her 19th-century world was rapidly changing into the modernity we know today (for instance St. Thérèse makes mention of horse carriages and trains.)
A mere 150 years have passed since the birth of St. Thérèse; a trifling amount of time where we, like St. Thérèse can look back on many centuries of Catholic history. This relative closeness of time between ourselves and St. Thérèse seems like no time at all when reading "Story of a Soul," so much so the book feels as if one has come across the ultimate Catholic penpal. She is like a dear friend who understands the nuances of cultivating a spiritual life in our times (and any other point in time.) The more I read the book, the more I felt a deep trust and endearment to St. Thérèse, because of how openly she shares her spiritual trials and the eloquence with which she writes.
If you have ever come across the classic book "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence," I would highly recommend "Story of a Soul" as a companion work. This is because of the confidence and clarity with which St. Thérèse is able to articulate her own surrender to divine providence.
Here is one striking example from the book:
"I had offered myself, for some time now, to the Child Jesus as his little plaything. I told him not to use me as a valuable toy children are content to look at but dare not touch, but to use me like a little ball of no value which he could throw on the ground, push with His foot, pierce, leave in a corner, or press to His heart if it pleased him; in a word, I wanted to amuse little Jesus, to give Him pleasure; I wanted to give myself up to His childish whims. He heard my prayer." – St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
From the outset of the book St. Thérèse makes no attempt to hide what she refers to as a spoiled upbringing. Which did not mean she didn't experience deep depressions, illnesses, anxieties, and immense spiritual dryness. It's because St. Thérèse unflinchingly shares her inner spiritual trials that we are able to better appreciate her remedy: love of God, penance, and surrender to His will.
There are also numerous fun and entertaining moments in the book which St. Thérèse includes to demonstrate even more fully that she is a mere human with a tendency towards feeling petty annoyances (but not acting on them). There are also numerous exciting occasions of daringness from our dear little saint that I will do you the courtesy of not sharing any examples since I would prefer not to spoil the surprises! You'll have to read the book to know what you're missing!