“…while the battle was raging, I saw her standing at the foot of a machine gun that was there. She was looking at me and blessing us all. She then told me with a smile: ‘Don’t be afraid, I have come to protect you.’”
—Paul-Henry Joly, Battle of the Somme
“Little Sister Thérèse, I don’t know you, but Mother prays to you and likes you; if you get me out of this bind, I’ll go on a pilgrimage to Lisieux and will do all that I can to spread your name…”
—the Count of Bérenger, the first Battle of the Marne
“…bullets were hissing around me; one of them reached me exactly in the area of the heart, piercing great coat, tunic, military booklet, and ended up ricocheting on a little medal of the dear Carmelite I have around my neck.”
—Joyerot, Battle of Verdun
These are from actual letters written by French soldiers in World War I, recounting favors they received from a countrywoman of theirs: a young Carmelite nun, recently deceased, whose fame was spreading due in great part to her autobiography The Story of a Soul.
Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had only been dead seventeen years when the Great War started. But she was already handing out roses all over the battlefield. Amidst the blood, terror, and utter desolation of that brutal war, she worked countless miracles for those who called upon her aid when caught in the jaws of death.
Some recount seeing Thérèse on the battlefield. One wounded stretcher-bearer recalls a radiant brightness and beautiful crown that appeared in his hospital room—and his immediate relief from his sufferings. Others tell of survival and protection against impossible odds, and spiritual graces that helped them carry the terrible cross of war.
These soldiers never forgot what Sister Thérèse had done for them. They wrote letters to the convent at Lisieux informing the nuns of the favors they had received. One signed his letter “the Little Soldier of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.” Many sent ex-voto-type offerings: helmets, bullets, shells, medallions, and other mementos of the Little Flower’s mighty protection.
You can read these letters today. They have been collected into one captivating book: Stronger Than Steel: Soldiers of the Great War Write to Thérèse of Lisieux. With a foreword by Fr. Dwight Longenecker—who also shares a personal story about St. Thérèse’s intercession in his own life—this astounding book is a must-read for devotees of St. Thérèse, World War I buffs, and anyone who loves great stories about the incredible mercies of God. Available today at The Catholic Company!