Story Of A Life
Childhood in Alencon (1873-1877)
Of farming and army stock, the Martin family had solid roots in
Normandy and Mayenne. Brought up in a series of military camps,
Louis Martin (1823-1894) thought seriously of entering a monastery.
But this was not to be and he turned to clock and watchmaking
instead. Zélie Guérin (1831-1877) was also unsuccessful
in her attempt to enter the religious order of the Sisters of
the Hótel-Dieu. She learned the Alencon lacemaking technique
and soon mastered this painstaking craft. They married in 1858
and had nine children. Four, including two boys died in infancy.
the youngest, was born on January 2, 1873. She was put out to
nurse for a year and became a lively, mischievous and self-confident
child. She thrived on the love which surrounded her in this Christian
household; where prayer, the liturgy and practical good works
formed the basis of her own ardent love of Jesus, her desire to
please him and the Virgin Mary. But disaster struck suddenly,
when her mother died of breast cancer in the summer of 1877.
The Martin household
was a lively place. Thérèse's father, Louis, had
a nickname for each of his daughters. Her mother, Zelie, wrote
her relatives constantly about the joys each child gave her. Thérèse
was the baby and everyone's favorite, especially her mother's.
Due to Thérèse's weak and frail condition at birth,
she was taken care of by a nurse for her first year and a half.
Because of this care, she became a lively, mischievous and self-confident
child. But Zélie was not blind to her baby's faults. Thérèse
was, she wrote, "incredibly stubborn. When she has said 'no'
nothing will make her change her mind. One could put her in the
cellar for the whole day." Thérèse's candor
appeared early and was unusual. The little one would run to her
mother and confess "Mama, I hit Celine (her sister) once-but
I won't do it again."
Little Therese was
blond, blue-eyed, affectionate, stubborn, and alarmingly precocious.
She could throw a giant-sized tantrum. Her bubbling laughter could
make a gargoyle smile. In a note, Zélie advised her daughter
Pauline: "She (Thérèse) flies into frightful
tantrums when things don't go just right and according to her
way of thinking; she rolls on the floor in desperation like one
without any hope. There are times when it gets too much for her
and she literally chokes. She's a nervous child, but she is very
good, very intelligent, and remembers everything."
Through it all, however,
Thérèse thrived on the love which surrounded her
in this Christian home. It was there, that prayer, the liturgy,
and practical good works formed the basis of her own ardent love
of Jesus, her desire to please Him and the Virgin Mary.