Thérèse of Liseux Reveals Her Soul - 1897
Thérèse of Lisieux was a sensitive nineteenth-century French girl raised in an atmosphere of Catholic piety. She joined the Carmelites in a strict order (the “Discalced Carmelites”) that has historically not worn shoes. “I applied myself especially to practice little virtues,” she wrote, “not having the facility to perform great ones.” After she died at twenty-four-years old from tuberculosis, her writings became well-known, radiating her desire to know Christ and be like him. The church proclaimed her a saint. Today’s selection, a letter written to Mother Agnes of Jesus on this day 28 May, 1897, gives a sample of her practical and simple approach to the Christian life.
“My Dearest Mother,—I have just been shedding sweet tears—tears of repentance, but still more of thankfulness and love. To-day I showed you the treasure of my patience, and how virtuous I am—I who preach so well to others! I am glad that you have seen my want of perfection. You did not scold me, and yet I deserved it. But at all times your gentleness speaks to me more forcibly than would severe words. To me you are the image of God’s Mercy.
“Sister N., on the contrary, is more often the image of God’s severity. Well, I have just met her, and, instead of passing me coldly by, she embraced me and said: ‘Poor little Sister, I am so sorry . . . I do not want to tire you; it was wrong of me to ask your help; leave the work alone.’ In my heart I felt perfect sorrow, and I was much surprised to escape all blame. I know she must really deem me imperfect. She spoke in this way because she thinks I am soon to die. However that may be, I have heard nothing but kind and tender words from her; and so I consider her most kind, and myself an unamiable creature.
“When I returned to our cell, I was wondering what Jesus thought, when all at once I remembered His words to the woman taken in adultery: ‘Hath no man condemned thee?’ (John 8:10). With tears in my eyes, I answered Him: ‘No one, Lord, . . . neither my little Mother—the image of Thy Mercy—nor Sister N., the image of Thy Justice. I feel that I can go in peace, because neither wilt Thou condemn me.’
“I confess I am much happier because of my weakness than if—sustained by grace—I had been a model of patience. It does me so much good to see that Jesus is always sweet and tender towards me. Truly it is enough to make me die of grateful love. My little Mother, you will understand how this evening the vessel of God’s Mercy has overflowed for your child. . . . Even now I know it! Yea, all my hopes will be fulfilled . . .
“VERILY THE LORD WILL WORK WONDERS FOR ME, AND THEY WILL INFINITELY SURPASS MY BOUNDLESS DESIRES.”
Therese Martin (of Lisieux). The Story of a Soul (L’Histoire d’une Ame): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux with additional writings and sayings of St. Thérèse. Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1912.