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The Little Flower was born in 1873, the youngest of nine children, into a very holy, but otherwise conventional, French middle class family. She enjoyed holidays at the seashore, shrimping, donkey rides, and her pets (rabbits, doves, silkworms, goldfish, magpie, dog). She liked to entertain her family and make them laugh by doing imitations. All in all, she was a normal little girl. Though she knew holiness beckoned and knew she wanted to follow its lure, she never stopped enjoying the offerings of her bourgeois upbringing.

At the age of 15, she entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux in Normandy and remained there for nine years until her death at age 24 in 1897. Her life in the convent was ordinary and drab, marked by nothing noticeable.

About two and a half years before she died, when the tuberculosis that would kill her was taxing her health, the convent's prioress, Pauline (Therese's older sister), ordered her to write her autobiography. She wrote, simply, like a half-educated school girl. She told about her youth and her years in the convent. Although she told nothing of apparent importance, The Story of a Soul came to life in its authenticity and in the details of the spiritual life she had devised for herself. When the world read her pages, it knew it had a potent new path to holiness on its hands. She called it, “the little way of spiritual childhood.” Today we simply call it the “Little Way” or the “Little Way of St. Therese.”