Pranzini, a murderer, was the first spiritual child of St. Thérèse.
“The lips of my ‘first child’ were pressed to the Divine Wounds: what a sweet response. My desire to save souls increased each day after this wonderful grace.”
St. Therese tells the story of Pranzini, a man who had murdered two women and a young girl and had been sentenced to death. All reports were that he was going to his death angry and bitter and unrepentant. Therese, only fourteen at the time, committed herself to praying and offering up sacrifices for his conversion. The day after his execution she secretly read the newspaper account of his death. Here is how she wrote about it:
Pranzini had not gone to confession. He had mounted the scaffold and was preparing to place his head in the formidable opening, when suddenly seized by an inspiration, he turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance!
Young Therese called Pranzini her “first child.”
This is “The Little Way” of St. Therese which Blessed Mother Teresa also followed: to do everything as an act of love for God, to offer all the little (and big) hardships of life for the conversion of sinners.
Imagine St. Therese arriving in heaven after her death at the age of twenty-four. Who do you think was the first person to meet her? Her mother Zelie? Her father Louis? Perhaps the first person to meet her on her arrival in heaven was a man with a big smile on his face who could hardly wait to thank her for the role her prayers and sacrifices played in getting him there… a murderer named Pranzini.