Touching testimonies of interventions by St. Thérèse in favor of soldiers who turned to her.
Newsroom (01/10/2021 11:45 AM, Gaudium Press) The Carmelite monastery of Lisieux, where Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus made the holocaust of her life to the merciful love of God, possesses more than two thousand dossiers containing original letters received during the conflict. The Conventalso displays decorations, medals, bullets, helmets, and shells turned into ex-votos.
In collaboration with the monastery, Editions du Cerf, a well-known French publishing house released a 203-page book  containing a selection of 75 of these letters. We reproduce some of them below.
“I left without going to confession”
“Therese of the Child Jesus favors me and I put great trust in her. I visited her tomb in May 1914 and came back very impressed. However, when war was declared, I refused to heed the insistent requests of my wife and left without going to confession. Human respect prevented me from doing my duty as a Catholic. I had been away from the Church since my First Communion. Nevertheless, I accepted a relic and a small image of the Little Sister and instinctively turned to her every time I found myself in danger. She protected me, and also my comrades, for I never saw any of them killed or wounded near me.
In September, we were in the trenches of Gotha, near Reims, in a difficult situation, for the artillery did not stop thundering. Thinking very sadly of my little family, I prayed: ‘My Sister Therese, I beg you, return me to my wife and children, and I promise to visit your tomb soon after I return home.’ No sooner had I finished my prayer than a cloud opened, and the Saint’s face appeared in the blue sky. I thought I was the victim of hallucinations. I rubbed my eyes several times, looking again at the vision, but I could not have any doubt because her countenance seemed more and more clear and radiant. I could contemplate her like this for about two minutes. I especially recognized her beautiful eyes, raised to Heaven as if to pray.
Since then, I have always been courageous; I no longer felt alone. I also had the firmest hope of finding my family again, and I made the unwavering resolution to return to the God of my childhood.
A short time later, because of illness, I was taken from the front and taken to the hospital; and when someone there asked who wanted to receive communion, I was not afraid to express my desire.”
“I owe it to my little Sister Teresa!”
“Since the beginning of the war, I have had a relic of Sister Teresa with me. This is what happened to me: on the last day of battle in the Marne region in September, we had only eight cannons against 25 of the enemy.
At that critical moment, we ran out of ammunition. In rushing to advance another battery coming to replace ours, I fell, and my cannon ran over both my legs. They should have been completely crushed, for each cannon weighs more than two tons!
“My dear comrades-in-arms rushed to pick me up. But to their amazement, they saw me get up without any difficulty! ‘Miracle! Miracle!’ they all shouted. I answered them immediately, my heart overflowing with gratitude: ‘I owe this to my little Sister Teresa!’. Then I took out of my pocket a white pencil and wrote in big letters on my cannon: Sister Therese of the Child Jesus Battery. Since then, every time rain erases the inscription, I rewrite it as quickly as possible. I have unlimited confidence in the protection of this Saint.”
“A grenade shrapnel in the middle of my chest”
“Under oath, I declare that I owe my life to Sister Therese of the Child Jesus. On March 16, 1916, the day before I left for my second tour to the front, one of my comrades gave me an image of the little Saint, telling me: ‘It seems that she has already obtained many miracles in favour of the soldiers, and protects us.’
“Until then, I had not known her, but I have not stopped invoking her every night, saying one Our Father and one Hail Mary in her honour since that day. Shortly afterwards, on April 30, I took part in the bloody Battle of Mort-Homme, in Verdun. In the terrible combat, without stopping fighting, I prayed to Sr. I turned to her, not out of fear, for I have never been afraid, but I asked her to sustain my courage, which was very necessary at that tragic moment!
“Suddenly, in the confusion of combat, 20 meters from the enemy, I took a piece of shrapnel in the middle of my chest. I fainted. When I regained consciousness, the battle was still raging. Exhausted and losing blood, I didn’t have the strength to drag myself out. But, remembering my holy Protectress, I cried out: ‘Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus, don’t abandon me!’
“And she heard my plea, for, under the bursts of machine guns, the soldiers soon arrived and took me to the first aid station. There, judging my case to be serious, a brave chaplain administered the Last rites under the thunder of the cannons.
“Despite the suffering, I felt happy and thought with gratitude how I owed the last Sacraments to Sister Teresa. I had so much confidence in the dear little Saint that, once I was safe from the bullets, I asked her for a second miracle: to cure me and guide me to her tomb in Lisieux. And I was heard. […]
“Now I feel ready to make all the sacrifices, all the sufferings because the Saint made me understand that in this way I will expiate my sins, and moreover, that Jesus Christ suffered much more for us….”
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More than a century has passed since the beginning of the terrible war. However, the devotion to the Saint of the Little Way has done nothing but grow and spread all over the world. Pius XI canonized her in 1925, only 28 years after her death. And in 1997, Saint John Paul II proclaimed St. Therese a Doctor of the Church.
Faithful to her promise to spend Heaven doing good on Earth, she has especially favoured many of our contemporaries, so much in need of spiritual help.
 Nous les Poilus. Plus forte que l’acier – Lettres des tranchées à Thérèse de Lisieux. Paris: Du Cerf, 2014.
Text extracted, with adaptations, from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 154, October 2014.
Compiled by Gustavo Kralj