Seotember 8, 1890, the feast of the Birth of Mary, was the date set for St. Therese's religious profession. At that time nuns did not make temporary vows, so one's novitiate ended with the one set of permanent vows. According to the custom of Carmel, professions were usually made on a feast day of Mary, the patron of the Carmelite Order.
On every September 8, the Carmelites of Lisieux had the custom of exposing on the altar of the choir a small wax statuette representing the newborn Mary so that the nuns could venerate it there. The statue was called "La Bambina." Please click here to see the statue and here to see a close-up of the face of the statue. Have you ever seen another statue representing the infant Mary?
We may imagine Therese and her sisters venerating this statue on Therese's Profession day and on the feast of the Nativity of Mary every year.
For Therese's dispositions in the days leading up to her Profession, please see the letters St. Therese wrote during her retreat for Profession, starting here.
On the morning of September 8, 1890, after Mass, the community escorted Therese, in procession, to the chapter room on the second floor, where the ceremony of professing vows was always held. This ceremony was a private one for Therese's Carmelite family. Click here to see a photograph of the chapter room decorated for a Profession. The young nun prostrated herself on the carpet for part of the ceremony. Over her heart Therese wore her "profession note," a little letter to Jesus expressing her desires. Please see both the English typescript and the handwritten note in French. During the ceremony the prioress placed on her head this crown of white roses:
This particular crown of roses had been worn by Mother Genevieve, a foundress of the Lisieux Carmel, for her jubilee, and Therese's sisters Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, and Marie, Sister Mare of the Sacred Heart, also wore it for their professions. A few days before Therese's profession it was entrusted to Celine, who brought it to her father at the Bon Saveur hospital so that he might bless it.
During the ceremony Therese received her Profession crucifix from the prioress:
From Therese's own writings we know that she was "obliged" to ask for her father's cure that day, but would only pray "My God, I beg You, let it be Your will that Papa be cured." Much bolder was her prayer for Leonie: "Let Leonie become a Visitation nun, and, if she has no vocation, I beseech You to give her one; You cannot refuse me that." For how Therese remembered her profession later, see both the English typescript and the French handwritten manuscript of Therese's description of her Profession in her memoir, Story of a Soul.
For the two photos displayed here, I thank Adele Giambrone. For the linked photos, I thank the the Web site of the archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. For the text, I thank the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, who own the English text, and the Web site of the archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, which dislays it online.