Her childhood toys can remind us that saints are normal people who respond extraordinarily to God’s grace, as St. Thérèse did.
It’s hard to imagine St. Thérèse of Lisieux, universal patroness of the missions, secondary patroness of France, and Doctor of the Church – among other things – being passionate about board games, puzzles, and a yo-yo. And yet her toys, piously preserved at the house of Les Buissonnets where she lived 11 years of her life (from 1877 until her entry into the Carmelite Order in 1898), testify to a happy and quite ordinary childhood.
It was a childhood for which Thérèse would remain nostalgic, despite the loss of her mother, Zélie Martin, when she was 5. She would later write: “The sunny years of my childhood passed far too quickly, despite the sweetness they left in my soul.” (Manuscript A, 11r.v). The familiarity of her childhood toys can remind us that saints are normal people who respond extraordinarily to God’s grace.
Some of the childhood toys of St. Thérèse of Lisieux are shown below.
1A pretty doll
Like many little girls of her age, Thérèse of Lisieux owned a doll, which she must have played with in her room.
2A cube puzzle
At Les Buissonnets, there’s also a cube puzzle that belonged to Thérèse.
The Martin family owned many board games, including Mikado, a version of pick-up sticks. The sisters probably played it together.
4A jump rope
Little Thérèse must have played jump rope in the garden of Les Buissonnets .
Les Buissonnets also preserves some of the family’s musical instruments, including this small tambourine.
6A board game, “Jacquot the magician”
There is also a magnetic questions-and-answers game, Jacquot the magician. The player had to place one of the question cards in the center. Jacquot the Magician, represented by a parrot, would then move by a clever trick of magnets to point its beak at the correct answer.
This little yo-yo, which is perfectly preserved, proves that little Thérèse took good care of her toys.
8A tea set
The Martin sisters probably spent afternoons playing with their tea set.
In her recollections, Sister Céline Martin, the sister closest to Thérèse of the Child Jesus, reports that they loved to play with this kaleidoscope: “She used to tell me about a well-known toy with which we used to amuse ourselves in our childhood. It was a kaleidoscope, a kind of telescope at the end of which one could see pretty drawings of various colors; if one turned the instrument, these drawings varied infinitely” (CSG p. 70-71).
10A Lotto Fables de la Fontaine
How can we not imagine the whole family, gathered in front of the fireplace, playing this lovely game of chance (a precursor to Bingo), Lotto Fables de la Fontaine?
Le Buissonnets also has other toys and board games that once belonged to the Martin family, such as checkers.