On the afternoon of Pentecost Sunday, May 29, 1887, Thérèse asked her father’s permission to enter Carmel. She was only fourteen years old at the time and the previous Christmas she had experienced her “complete conversion.” That conversion experience, she believed, had given her the inner strength and certainty that she was ready and capable of joining religious life. Her conversion has changed her life. It had made her a new person. It had made her grow up out of her childhood.
Thérèse does not say specifically why she chose Pentecost to ask her father’s permission, but it seems likely that she felt that she was being inspired by the Holy Spirit to make her request on that special day. She seems also to have been expressing thanksgiving for the Holy Spirit having given her the grace of her conversion. She believed that God’s Spirit had come to her in a special way to accomplish her conversion and she believe that now the Holy Spirit was inspiring her to take all the means necessary to enter Carmel.
Thérèse later would speak of God as Love stooping down to her. Her image of God was that of a loving parent who bends down to care for the child, lifting the child up in an intimate embrace. She saw God stooping to help her at her creation, at the Incarnation, and at the Eucharist. She saw God lovingly reaching to embrace her also at each moment of her life in the working of divine providence through the activity of the Holy Spirit.
She appreciated God’s Holy Spirit at the dawn of the creation of the universe and at her own creation. She reverenced the Holy Spirit’s role in “overshadowing” Mary and bringing Jesus into the world. She adored in the bread and wine being transformed into the body and blood of Christ the power of Holy Spirit. And she especially revered the Holy Spirit as she experienced God’s embracing her in divine providence at each moment of her life. Minute by minute, in the everyday duties and simple experiences of life she was aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in her life.
We are being invited by the Church to foster our devotion to the Holy Spirit at this time of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been called the forgotten person of the Trinity, but when we understand that the Holy Spirit is the name the Church gives to Christ’s resurrected presence in the world today and in our own lives at each successive moment, we can follow Thérèse’s lead in making the Holy Spirit the focal point of our constant prayer.