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Illness and physical suffering

Afflicted for months by a sore throat that stubbornly resisted treatment, Thérèse suffered two hemorrhages during Holy Week of 1896. Far from panicking, she saw this as a summons from her Spouse and looked forward to joining Him soon. She kept working without telling anyone until she became so sick a year later everyone knew it. Worst of all she had lost her joy and confidence and felt she would die young without leaving anything behind. This sudden anguish overwhelmed her at Easter and she fell into a dark night of the soul, an "underground labyrinth," a "fog." Heaven seemed to have shut its gates against her. This trial of faith and hope, which made her participate in Christ's Passion, was to last, with a few brief periods of respite, to the end of her life. But she turned the test into a redemptive one, agreeing to remain alone in the darkness so that atheists might receive the Light.

While she was praying in the church that summer, strange and powerful desires started to torment her, and she wrote down: "In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be Love. This way, I shall be everything." Writing down these confidences for her sister and godmother, Marie of the Sacred Heart, in September 1896, she gave the world a spiritual masterpiece [Manuscript B]. The wish to "save souls" never left her, and she was seriously thinking of  leaving for the Carmel founded in Saigon by the Lisieux sisters.

Father Roulland when he visited Lisieux gave Thérèse the book, The Su-Tchuen Mission in the 18th Century: The Life and Apostolate of Bishop Pottier by L. Guiot [Tequi, 1892]. In it, Thérèse learned about the mission field entrusted to her second spiritual brother. Inscribed on the scroll in her hand was one of Thérèse's favorite sayings of Teresa of Avila: "I would give a thousand lives to save one soul."

In placing a lily near the book on China, Thérèse expressed one of her most profound convictions: her simple, consecrated life sufficed for her to participate closely in the apostolate of a missionary. She repeated this in a poem she gave Father Roulland on July 16th, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:

"Be his to cover the globe
To preach the name of Jesus.
Be mine, in shadow and mystery,
To practice humble virtues.
I claim suffering,
I love and desire the cross . . .
I would die a thousand times
To help save one soul!"

Exactly one year later, after another pulmonary hemorrhage she would make this famous promise: "I want to spend my Heaven doing good on earth."