On the feast of Pentecost 1887, the young Thérèse of Lisieux would ask her father permission to enter Carmel and become a nun. Why she chose Pentecost, we’ll never know. But the story she recounts, that conversation with her father, is told with such grace that it’s impossible to avoid contemplating the mystery of how the Holy Spirit moves.

Yes, the Spirit sometimes comes with great drama and force, as the apostles experienced. But the Spirit also moves quietly, in a hidden conversation between a father and his daughter; in their moments of vulnerability and confession; in the tears shed knowing they must part.

Thérèse loved her father, and there was such affection between them. He was attentive, gentle and gracious, with a deep sensitivity to the beauty of creation. When Thérèse found him that day, he was seated by the well on their property, ‘contemplating the marvels of nature,’ she tells us.

She approached him, tears in her eyes. ‘What’s the matter, my little Queen?’ he said. ‘Tell me.’

She did. Recently, despite being only thirteen years old, Thérèse had experienced a profound conversion. She talks about it as receiving the grace of ‘growing up’. One Christmas, Jesus worked her heart in such a way that she became acutely aware of his great thirst for sinners. His words on the Cross, ‘I thirst,’ echoed in her heart, and she began to experience a glimpse of this same thirst in her own soul.

After reading Father Charles Arminjon’s The End of the Present World and the Mystery of the Future Life, she also experienced a greater desire to love Jesus with her whole being, knowing that he was everything she would ever need. In this state, she heard a call so powerful that she would ‘pass through flames’ so as to heed it.

Although her father thought she was quite young to enter Carmel, he quickly realised there was something else behind his daughter’s passion than youthful zeal. It was the hand of the divine.

Thérèse does not share the details of their conversation. She says, ‘He spoke just like a saint, and I’d love to recall his words and write them down, but all I preserved of them is a memory too sacred to be expressed.’

What she does share is that her father plucked a little white flower from the garden, carefully preserving its roots, and explaining to his daughter that even this flower had been cared for by the Lord from the moment it was brought into existence. This action on the part of her ‘king’, as she called her father, confirmed in her that God was uprooting her from the soil of her family in order to plant her elsewhere.

She kept that flower in her copy of The Imitation of Christ and treasured it.

They held each other and wept that day, knowing they both had to let go. Again, it isn’t clear why Thérèse chose that day to tell her father, but she prayed to the apostles that he would listen. And he did. The Holy Spirit helped him perceive the mystery that lay behind his daughter’s conviction. What’s interesting is that this moment between them is, for the most part, private and hidden to curious eyes. Yet it is the moment in which a father allowed his daughter to become a saint.

Sometimes when we look for the work of the Holy Spirit, we look for the spectacle. We look for the tongues of fire and the wind that blows freely. That Pentecost, as he often does, the Spirit moved in the midst of the most ordinary event, a conversation, opening the doors Thérèse needed. He moved quietly through the hearts of two people who loved each other deeply.

The story of the Little Flower’s Pentecost conversation with her father is told in Chapter V of ‘The Story of a Soul