Thérèse Martin did all that and more. She embraced all the suffering she could handle both physically and spiritually, striving to offer all of it so that good could be brought of it until her death at the age of twenty-four.
This book attempts to narrate from multiple perspectives the hidden life of an unknown girl who, after her death, would come to be known as the Greatest Saint of Modern Times.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.31(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Smallest Spark
By John D. Wright
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 John D. Wright
All rights reserved.
What is our world coming to? I just heard the news about a man who killed two women and a twelve-year-old girl. He slit their throats! The little girl was almost decapitated! What kind of monster does that!? At least they caught the guy. He'll be dead soon. Not that it will make the world a better place, but that's how it works. These are my thoughts as I walk home.
I walk into my house and it seems too quiet. Usually my little sister, Thérèse, runs to the door to greet me. I walk into our dining room and see her sitting at the table looking cute as always with her long blonde hair let down and wearing a pretty white dress. She doesn't look up at me when I walk in. Her emerald eyes are staring off as if in a trance. I then notice what she's looking at: a newspaper. No way!
She doesn't fl inch as I snatch the paper off of the table. I try to get her to snap out of her trance as I fold up the paper and sit down beside her.
"Thérèse! You know Papa doesn't want you reading the newspaper, you're too young!"
She's unfazed, doesn't even look at me, and seems to change the subject.
"Celine ... would you have a mass said for my intentions?"
Thérèse looks at me and smiles.
"I need a mass said for my intentions."
Now I'm curious. I lean close to her and lower my voice.
Thérèse lays her face on the table, reaches up and begins playing with my hair.
I know what will get her to open up. I smile and kiss her on the cheek. Works every time.
She gives in.
"It seems Pranzini will die unrepentant. I do not want him to fall into hell."
I was afraid that's what she was reading about. I don't know whether to be edified or disturbed by such earnest concern for a coldblooded killer. I try to make sense of it.
"You care for him in spite of the fact that he murdered two women and a little girl younger than you?" I guess a soul's a soul, though. I'll play along. "Do you think we can convert him?"
She smiles at me again as she stands up with her hand still in my hair and laughs.
"Have a mass said for my intentions!"CHAPTER 2
Pranzini sits in his cell waiting for what is to come. He's telling himself that he couldn't care less. Can we just get it over with?
He looks up as his cell door is opened and is surprised to see a priest walk in and sit down in front of him.
"Self-righteous pig. Come to tell me that God's wrath will soon be upon me?"
The priest smiles gently at Pranzini.
"No. I have come to tell you that though society will soon take its vengeance upon you, nevertheless, God's mercy awaits you. I am here to invite you to embrace it."
Almost out of reflex, Pranzini spits in his face, and doesn't say another word. He will soon face humiliation and death and this man in black, who refuses to live in the real world wants him to lay down his last shred of dignity? Screw him.
The priest makes no protest as he wipes the spit off of his face with a handkerchief. He simply looks again at Pranzini and smiles, nodding his head.
Two guards subsequently walk in and stand Pranzini up. He is then escorted out of the prison, with hands bound in front of him. The priest follows closely behind him. The crowd is anything but friendly toward Pranzini as they curse and throw things at him. This amuses him. They would all be joining him somewhere down the road.
While this is happening, Thérèse enters a small chapel across town and kneels before a crucifix. Staring straight ahead, she begins to pray.
"Lord, I am sure you will pardon your unfortunate child, Pranzini."
The crowd yells.
"YOU'LL BURN IN HELL, YOU CHILDKILLING DOG!!!"
"I'll believe this even if he shows no sign of repentance."
Someone from the crowd whips Pranzini in the face with a pearl necklace.
"HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NECKLACE YOU SPINELESS COWARD!? ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU MURDERED THOSE WOMEN FOR!?"
Pranzini and his escorts walk up the steps to the guillotine.
Thérèse looks up at the crucifix.
"I will only ask you for a sign, Lord, for my own consolation, if it pleases you."
Pranzini suddenly stops before reaching the guillotine. He can't explain why, nor does he have time to, but he faces the priest behind him, unable to look directly at him. Tears begin to form in his eyes.
"Bring me the cross!"
The priest holds his Crucifix up to Pranzini. Pranzini grabs it out of his hands and kisses the wounds of Christ, slowly and tenderly, and gives the Crucifix back to the priest. The priest makes the Sign of the Cross over Pranzini.
"My son ... may God bless you."
Pranzini looks off into the distance with tears freely fl owing down his face, still not sure why, but feeling a freedom unlike anything he has ever experienced in all his days of "adventuring."
"He already has."
Pranzini is positioned in the guillotine.
Thérèse finishes her prayer.
Well, I've done everything I can. Celine has assured me that she had mass said for Pranzini's conversion and I have prayed for him the best I know how. I know God must have saved him, but now I want to see if He'll give me a sign. I'm standing close to the street outside my house, waiting for the newspaper. It is finally dropped in front of me. I quickly pick it up and run up my porch steps and back into my house. I unfold the paper, start reading, and there it is ... I drop the paper and put my hands over my mouth trying to keep myself from screaming with delight. I hide behind the curtain next to the front door.
Bad decision, but how am I to think straight right now? I soon hear Papa come in through the door. He will have been looking for the paper. I hear him call upstairs, sounding a little frustrated.
"Celine! Did you pick up the paper? It should have come in by now."
"No, Papa. Are you sure?"
If I can just stay quiet ...
"... Found it."
Nope, can't hold it anymore. I begin laughing. It's stifled but definitely not quiet. Soon the curtain is pulled from in front of me and I'm caught. Papa looks amused.
"Thérèse? What are you doing behind the curtain?"
It doesn't take him long to put it together as he eyes me and slightly raises the messy newspaper with a hint of disappointment.
"Were you reading the newspaper? You know you're not allowed."
All I can do is smile.
"I'm sorry, Papa. I didn't think I'd be disobeying if I only read about Pranzini." That's the truth ... a soul was at stake.
Papa looks confused as if he is not sure he heard correctly. I can't blame him.
"Pranzini? The triple-murderer who was just executed yesterday? I cannot think of a worse subject you could be reading about."
I abandon myself with delight and wrap my arms around him. I haven't felt this much joy since last Christmas.
"Papa, he repented! God has given me my first child! I had a mass said for him, prayed for him, and asked for a sign of his repentance and God answered it to the letter! He's in heaven! I know it! Just like the 'Good Thief'!"
Papa was tense when I first embraced him, but after I speak, I feel him relax and return my embrace.
"I am glad to hear that, my queen. Just let me know the next time you want to read the newspaper. You don't have to hide anything from me."CHAPTER 4
I've been a Carmelite for ... how long now? It doesn't feel long, but time seems to pass unnoticed in these walls. Papa and my two younger sisters have come to visit me and my older sister Marie, who, ironically, didn't enter Carmel until after I did. We've had a nice visit in spite of these bars that separate us ... and the fact that Thérèse hasn't said a word. She seems quite subdued.
After I tell them good-bye, they start approaching the exit, but Thérèse does not follow, and she finally speaks up.
"Papa? Can I have some time alone with Pauline and Marie?"
Pauline ... that name sounds more and more foreign to me since everyone else calls me Agnes, the name I took when I entered Carmel. It is easier for Marie since she kept her name and simply added something to it.
Papa knows there is a mother-daughter-like relationship between Thérèse and myself. Since Mama died, I know it has been something he has appreciated. But I also know that since my entrance, it must have been like losing a second mother for her.
Papa smiles at Thérèse.
"Of course. Celine and I will wait outside."
Celine can't help but tease a bit.
"Don't be too long."
After the door closes behind them, Thérèse lets her emotions go and begins crying as she falls to her knees, placing her hands around the bars of the grill. I briefly look at Marie and we get up and rush to her. I place my hands over hers.
"Don't cry, Thérèse. Tell me what's on your mind."
She can barely choke out the words. It seems she has had a lot pent up inside of her and now it's all coming out at once.
"Not my mind, but my heart: an unquenchable thirst to bring souls to God ..."
"Why does it make you cry?" I thought she had finally outgrown her hypersensitivity.
"It's driving me here. It wants me here now! Jesus is calling me here, now, to our desert!"
She continues crying and leans her head against the bars.
Somehow I am not surprised. I think back to the miraculous cure Thérèse received for her mysterious illness from Our Lady of Victories, when all seemed lost. Perhaps it was leading up to this? I move my face inches from hers and I almost shout.
"Then do not be afraid! Follow Him!"
Thérèse stops crying and looks up at me, her face still covered in tears and a look of wonder in her eyes.
Marie, or Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, if you like, sounds just a little outraged by my response.
"Thérèse! You are not even fifteen! Mama has died, the two of us are already here, and Leonie is in the Visitation at Caen; not to mention our other brothers and sisters who have already died at such young ages. You are Papa's youngest! If you leave him so soon, it will destroy him!"
I know there is no use getting into an argument, so I look at Thérèse with a subtle hint of humor, hoping that she will catch it.
"Maybe, Marie's right, Thérèse. Just forget it. Th ink about Papa."
I can tell she understands, as she smiles with gratitude, and kisses my hand before running off.CHAPTER 5
What happened in there with Pauline? Thérèse has barely been speaking to anyone. Since we visited our sisters, she has looked more and more weighed down with each passing day. It's time to pry. Maybe she's trying to figure out how to convert another serial killer or something. I go to our room and find her sitting on her bed, lost in thought. She looks really tired and barely notices me when I come in.
"Thérèse? Is everything alright? You've seemed distant lately, withdrawn."
Thérèse slowly faces toward me, but doesn't look at me. It's almost like she's just waking up.
"Have I? I'm sorry."
I sit down close beside her on the bed.
"What's going on with you?"
"I don't want to make you sad."
What is this? Last time she didn't want to make me laugh. I put an arm around her.
"And I don't want you to endure whatever you're going through by yourself."
Thérèse sorrowfully looks into my eyes.
"Celine, I have to leave. Jesus is calling me to Carmel, now, and I don't know how to tell Papa, and I didn't know how to tell you. I know we have the same destiny, to make Jesus our spouse, and you have more of a right to enter before me, since you're older. But I have to go, now."
I look away from Thérèse. I knew she was called to this, and I even guessed it might be sooner rather later, but that doesn't stop it from stinging nonetheless. Yet as I look down, trying to hold back tears, somehow I know this is from God, and that my sister will need all the support she can get. I smile and I look back at Thérèse.
"You're right. Our destinies are the same. Right now, however, mine involves seeing you off . I'll do whatever I can to help. Tell Papa. He loves you more than you know. He will see that this is God's will for you, as I do, and you will get his blessing, as you have mine."
Thérèse wraps her arms around me and I do likewise.CHAPTER 6
I see Papa sitting on a well outside, with his hands folded, appearing to be in deep thought, nature's beauty radiant behind him. As I approach him, I can feel my chest getting tighter and tighter. I don't know how this is going to work. Marie, Pauline, and Leonie, that was one thing---or three---but now me, his "queen"? All I can do as I draw closer to him is pray and try not to cry. That has always been a pretty frustrating habit. Always crying at the drop of a hat. Even crying about crying ... Was this not actually worth crying over, though?
As I slowly sit down beside my father, my "king", my resistance to tears quickly fails. Papa immediately notices and gently guides my head to his chest.
"What's wrong my little queen? Tell me."
The words come out choked and abrupt.
"Papa, I must enter Carmel now."
He stands up with my head still pressed to his chest, and begins walking with me. I guess he's taking his time, processing. He then responds gently.
"You're very young to be making such a serious decision."
My emotions pour out. I've kept this from him for too long.
"The decision is not mine, but my belovéd Jesus's. He is calling me there now, Papa. I know it! It started with a thirst that arose in me to win souls for Him, which drove me to pray for Pranzini. Now I know He calls me to win so many more at Carmel. He wants me there to Himself ... AND EVERY DAY I AM UNABLE TO ANSWER THIS CALL IS PURE AGONY! PLEASE PAPA! HELP ME!"
Papa stops walking. My words must be like a knife to his heart. He holds me tighter. After what feels like an eternity, I feel his breath on top of my head.
"I will, my child. I promise you."
I feel his cheek rest on top of my head, and after a few moments, he lets me go.
I can hardly believe what I just heard nor the confidence and reassurance in my father's dark eyes. Is this real?
He takes me by the hand, and we begin walking again, looking off into the horizon. As we walk, he suddenly smiles and looks at me again.
"God is giving me quite an honor, taking my children away from me. Four He has taken to be with Him in Heaven, two to Carmel, one to the Visitation ... and now He comes for my little queen." He pauses. "So much the better ..."CHAPTER 7
It's not long, but it feels like forever, waiting to go back to Carmel and share my joy. When I arrive, I feel delirious with joy and I practically fall into the cloister bars before Pauline.
"Pauline! It's happening! Papa said, 'Yes!'"
Pauline is silent as she looks at me with a sense of ... pity?
"What is it?"
"Our superior, Father Delatroëtte, is denying your entrance until you are twenty-one."
I can only sigh. I should have known it wouldn't be that easy.
* * *
I return home and give Papa the news. He doesn't seem discouraged at all. Maybe he's relieved? But he surprises me.
"Don't worry about it. We'll go see the bishop. The Carmel Superior may have refused, but the bishop has authority over him. If the bishop refuses, well ... we are already set for a pilgrimage to Rome; we'll take it to the Pope!"
* * *
It is pouring down rain when we arrive at the bishop's residence in Bayeux. I have my hair done up for a change and I decided maybe black would be a better dress color for this occasion. Papa knocks on the big double doors, which open to reveal a priest who I suppose is an aide to the bishop. This guy looks kind of creepy, but he smiles warmly and invites us in.
"How may I help you today?"
Papa removes his goofy looking top-hat, while holding my hand.
"Father Révérony, thank you for having us. I am Louis Martin and this is my daughter Thérèse. We are here to see Bishop Hugonin. My daughter has a vocation to religious life at the Carmel of Lisieux that demands her immediate entrance. The Carmel Superior has refused to allow this, so we are hoping that the bishop will be able to help."
Well said Papa. Father Révérony looks like he's not sure if he heard right.
"This daughter with you now?" He turns to me with a smile. "... And how old are you, my dear?"
This is quickly beginning to feel awkward.
"I turn fifteen in three months ..."
Father Révérony lets out a slight hint of laughter. Yeah, ha, ha, Father. I guess this will go nowhere. He maintains a sense of politeness.
Excerpted from The Smallest Spark by John D. Wright. Copyright © 2015 John D. Wright. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is very easy to read and challenges one to look into your own life and see where you can improve. I enjoyed it very much. It is all about an ordinary person who does extraordinary things by following her faith.