St Therese's Story of a Soul

This work is St Therese of Lisieux's autobiography; I had this translation. She was a Carmelite nun in the late 19th century who had wanted to be a missionary. She is now a Doctor of the Church.

Her "little way" is all about living by love and making sacrifices which are completely hidden. This takes incredible strength of character. Her asceticism is much more difficult than physical asceticism: it is interior. But God does put noble desires in your heart, and gives you the ability to fulfil them. When you do find yourself joyfully making a sacrifice, thank Jesus for that grace; his attributes are lifting you up to be like him.

Therese had an incredible confidence in God's love and mercy towards us. I didn't really connect with her writing much; she seemed saccharine to me. I think a bit of it was based on my own life, not knowing how to relate to someone so ridiculuously nice and perfect as Therese seems. She is very encouraging, though. She was so focused on God's love and mercy that she though of his justice in terms of his making allowances for our weaknesses, given how frail is our nature. She wrote that "charity consists in putting up with all one's neighbour's faults, never being surprised by his weakness, and being inspired by the least of his virtues."

This was my favourite paragraph in her whole book:
It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I fly to God with loving confidence. I know I should still have this confidence even if my conscience were burdened with every possible crime. I should fling myself into the arms of my Saviour, heartbroken with sorrow. I know how He loved the prodigal son, I have heard His words to St. Mary Magdalene, to the woman taken in adultery, and to the woman of Samaria. No, no one could frighten me, for I know what to think about His love and His mercy. I know that a host of sins would vanish in the twinkling of an eye like a drop of water flung into a furnace.

For Therese mercy is love that suffers the misery of another so as to affirm their dignity. And penance is love that sees the suffering love of another on one's own behalf and desires to make a return. The love of Jesus isn't a mere nice feeling; it conforms us to him crucified. Jesus' mercy enables us to make such sacrifices. Jesus will transform you into himself if you let him, and your personality will actually become more full. This was echoed by Pope Benedict in the close of his homily at his inaugural Mass as Pope:
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.
Only in realizing how pathetic and weak you are, can you meet Jesus and can others meet him through you. People who don't know God haven't felt his yearning love for them; the only way for them to experience his love is through you. When someone comes to the Lord through you it isn't because of your intellect, but through your weakness and brokenness.

She is a very sweet saint, and was a good friend to seminarians and priests in her earthly life. It is good to develop a friendship with her. Ask her, "Teach me your little way. Be my friend." You have to do something concrete with your life to develop your friendship with the saints. For Therese, it is the little way. Seminarians, allow her to be your novice mistress.

No comments:

Post a Comment