The Little Flower
The Little Flower10 mins 12.5K 10 mins 12.5K
One man’s deeds were the talk of the town. Far away in Paris, a man named Henri Pranzini had killed two women and a girl child. He was under police custody but was showing no sign of fear. He continuously proclaimed his innocence in court and was showing bravado while appearing in public view. The woman named Marie Reginald lived in Paris and Henri was a friend of hers. Reginald was a courtesan with a clientele of high-positioned officials in the government and the rich men of the city. Henri Prnazini was also her client. But he had earned her trust. He could come and go at her residence as he pleased. Marie Reginald trusted him.
God! How trust could act in murderous ways! Pranzini had murdered Reginald only secondly. Before reaching her, Pranzini had to face her servant Annette Gremeret. While he was attacking her with a butcher’s knife, Reginald’s servant Annette Gremeret blocked his way with the fierceness of a wild lioness. But he had, with a swift move, slit the throat of Annette Gremeret, nearly decapitating her. Pranzini went for Reginald, using his knife to cut open her throat. Reginald had a girl child, the age of fourteen. She was sleeping peacefully in the nearby room. When the police finally came to the murder scene, they witnessed not two but three murders. Pranzini hadn’t spared the child also.
The way the reporters had reported Pranzini’s behavior in public filled Therese with pity. She knew for certain that the man was damned, and was surely going to hell.
Therese closed the papers and sighed at the news of the horrific incident.
However, unlike the first time she heard of the murder, something soothed her mind now. Therese went inside to her room and thought about it. The face of her mother Zelie Martin and her elder sister Pauline who took the vow to be a nun Carmelite convent at Lisieux came to her mind. A drop of tear formed in the corner of her eyes when she thought about Zelie Martin, her mamma, who went to be with God, leaving Therese at just four and half years of age.
Zelie Martin’s memories were etched upon her elder sister Pauline’s person. For Therese, Pauline was her second mother. Pauline took care of her as a child and helped her overcome the daunting hollowness she felt inside her soul after her momma’s death.
For a moment, Therese looked out the window, saw the morning was mesmerizing and the sun was brimming with Divine light. She saw the little wildflowers growing on the verge of her father’s well-tended garden. For some reason, she loved the wildflowers, the little precious gems of purest nature. There was no human interference in the way these wildflowers grew. There were no expectations from them. No one bothered even to look at them, savor their beauty and write long poems about them. How inferior are they in front of the majestic rose in the garden! Yet they survive, silently spreading the joy of their Creator’s care and love who decided to share the impeccable beauty in the obscurity of the wilderness, away from human greed and civilization.
Therese stood up from her bed and walked to the window of her room. She breathed in the fresh air, filling herself with the aroma of every plant life outside. She turned and went to her cupboard. A large hardbound volume of the Bible sat there. Placed near the bible was a prayer Missal. She opened the prayer Missal slowly and deliberately. She wanted to find the apt lines to pray for one person. The person in her mind was none other than the criminal in the newspaper.
A small picture of Jesus fell from the book and landed at Therese’s foot. She bent and took it in her hands. It was the image of Jesus on the cross. His blood was flowing out of his body, drops of blood were shown dripping from his feet. Jesus Christ had taught his disciples that it doesn’t carry much credit to love one’s friends. It is to love those who have not been kind to us, to pray for our enemies, there is credit for us in the eyes of God, Jesus had said.
Little Therese kissed the picture and asked for forgiveness for dropping it. She felt guilty of being careless. No! She couldn’t be careless in such a manner when it comes to all of God’s creation, she thought. She must pray for bad people too.
Nowhere in the Missal could she find a proper prayer for someone like Henry Pranzini, the evil incarnate. Therese ran to pick the newspaper again. But now it was with her father Louis Martin. Louis looked at the eager face of his daughter.
“What happened, Therese?” he inquired.
“Nothing, Papa,” she said. “Just wanted to take a look at the paper.”
Louis glanced at the paper and at her face again. His face changed from a solemn peaceful one to a grimace.
“No!” Louis said. “The news here… dear, the way of the world is paved with darkness and sins. It is not wise for a little child like you to read about it at all. As a father, I am concerned.”
Louis Martin was right. Behind the proud veneer of Paris was a dark and stinky world of greed, corrupt desire, and gluttony. The newspapers these days ran a series of detailed stories about the high-profile prostitutes, pimps, and the corrupt officials and rich men and women of Paris. It was as if the persona of a city was being torn down by this man named Henri Pranzini, an Italian by name, one who didn’t belong anywhere in particular.
“A murder belongs in hell,” Louis mumbled.
Therese was upset. This was her chance to be a little flower, an insignificant creature of God, yet adding value to others’ lives. Therese went back to her room and started to pray. The face of Jesus appeared in her mind. She prayed to God to save the criminal, not from the prison, where he was, awaiting his punishment, but from hell.
To save a sinner from enfer, or hell, Therese knew no way. The ways to hell were found by a person by virtue of one’s own actions. No one can undo it. Therese saw only a minute possibility to save the man’s soul from eternally lost to hell, away from prayers, and God’s love. For her, hell was where we lost ourselves from God.
Pranzini had lost himself from the hand of God by committing the murders.
Therese prayed for the only thing she could think of- confession. She prayed for Pranzini to have a change of mind and accept his mistakes and pray for God’s intervention. From what she had read from the paper, it was clear that Pranzini was showing no signs of weakness. Even if he was afraid of the impending death, he wasn’t expressing any of it. Weeks passed, after hearing the case in detail, the French court ordered Pranzini to be guillotined.
One day, as Louis Martin was looking for his reading glasses inside the house, he noticed that his youngest daughter, little Therese was deep in prayer, with closed eyes. He waited outside her room for her to finish, out of curiosity. Several moments later, Therese opened her eyes. She saw her father watching her curiously.
Therese stood up and walked towards him.
“What is it, daughter? Who are you praying for?” Louis said.
“Father, I am praying for Henri Pranzini,” Therese said. “I prayed to God for giving Pranzini the heart to face the truth and accept his mistakes.”
Louis was amazed that his daughter was praying for a criminal whom the whole world despised.
“From what I hear, that man is acting like a mad animal. No, even worse than an animal. No remorse, no pity, no fear. Only arrogance. Besides, how would you even know if he even thinks about God? Who knows what happens behind those arrogant eyes,” Louis said.
“Louis is the first broken person for whom I prayed for, father,” Therese said.
Louis looked at his daughter, pleased with her faith, overwhelmed by her innocence. What sign for a creature like Pranzini!
“I am glad that you have the heart of Christ, little Therese. But don’t be disheartened when you see circumstances going against your expectations and wishes. Okay?” Louis advised her. His heart went out for his daughter, who had lost her mother at the early age of four and a half years.
Therese nervously smiled at her father. “Father, please don’t say that. I am hoping that God will do something.”
“Therese, tomorrow is the execution day of Henri Pranzini. What miracle are you hoping for? Do you think he would break down and cry? Or do you think he will ask for forgiveness? Some reports are even saying that there was another man in the room of that woman, that… Reginald and they suspect that perhaps, this man Pranzini became a scapegoat because they couldn’t find the other one,” Louis said, without looking at his daughter.
“Oh, father, I prayed to God that Pranzini would turn to Him. All I know is that he is a man in need of help, spiritual help. And he wasn’t showing any signs of taking that path. So I pleaded in front of God to help Pranzini turn to our Creator.” Therese’s eyes overflowed. Louis couldn’t bear seeing his daughter in anguish. He left her there, in the solemn peace of her room.
Louis saw his daughter in constant prayer, many times on that day and the next. The newspaper following the day of Pranzini’s execution arrived.
“Therese, you might want to take a look at this!” Louis called his daughter.
When Therese arrived at the verandah, Louis was standing in the courtyard, facing the east, his face away from her.
Therese saw the news of the beheading of Henri Pranzini. The main news detailed everything from the time of the execution to the people present. Therese felt sad. After all of it, Pranzini’s life was over without him turning to God. His soul must have gone to the depths of hell, she thought, and felt sad for the person. She also felt sad that her prayers didn’t bring any change in him.
“You were right, Papa,” Therese said. “It’s over. He died. I don’t see any signs. Perhaps, God had acted silently. Inside his heart, he must have prayed. Who knows?” she said sadly.
“My daughter,” Louis turned to look at her. Therese saw that her father’s eyes were overflowing with tears. “Did you read the box news?” he said.
Therese hadn’t. The news was about a curious thing Pranzini did just before his execution.
A priest was present at the sight of the execution as per the regulation of the state. According to the report, just before his execution, Pranzini asked the priest to come forward. He asked for the crucifix that was with the priest. The priest gave it to him and Pranzini kissed the cross, three times.
Therese couldn’t read the newspaper any further. Her eyes were foggy and tears traced a fanciful path on her cheeks.
She kneeled and said a silent prayer, thanking God, for showing her the sign.
The next year, a young girl joined in the Carmelite convent of Lisieux. She was only fifteen-years-old. It was unusual for a girl of her age to join the convent. But she had done so with the help of the strength of her prayer. The priests and nuns who met her never forgot her determination to walk the path of spirituality. Her name was Therese, the young girl whose determination was as strong as the innocence of the little flowers in the wild.