Sunday, September 30, 2012

St. Therese ... the death of love.


"When certain dates were suggested as days for her death, Thérese said: “Ah! Mother, intuitions! If you only knew how spiritually poor I really am. I know nothing that you yourself don’t know! I know only what I see and feel!”
It was through the grace of God alone that Thêrèse had reached this state of absolute surrender to Him. She stated: “the words of Job: ‘Even though he should kill me, yet will I trust him,’ always fascinated me in my childhood days. It took me a long time, however, to reach that degree of surrender. Now I have reached it; God has placed me in this degree, for He has taken me up into His arms and placed me there.” - Mother Agnes of Jesus (Pauline)

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The death of love.

Little Therese died on September 30, 1897 at 7:20 in the evening, after a prolonged agony.  From Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine) book, My Sister, St. Therese; Celine wrote:

Once in the infirmary - just a few days ago (1897) in fact...
I had been going to and fro in the Infirmary, and became upset because something had gone wrong. Therese called, "Bo-bonne, no interior anxiety if you please!" (September 3) I can almost hear her say that. Therese always knows when something is wrong.  Her death reminds me so much of the death of love Our Lord suffered... today she cries out:
"Oh! It is pure suffering, because there is not a drop of consolation, no, not one."  No, I would never have believed that it was possible to suffer so much... never, never. I can only explain it by my extreme desire to save souls." (September 30) 
Celine continued: 
"She was trembling from head to foot..." 
At one point she told Celine, "Va, va, ma Celine, je serais avec tois..." "Go on with courage... I shall be with you."

Finally, gazing on her crucifix, Little Therese cried out:

"Oh!... Je L'aime!... Mon Dieu, je... vous... aime!" "Oh! ...I love Him! ...My God, I!"

On suffering and love.

Something from Ven. Pere Eugene-Marie of the Child Jesus, O.C.D.:

Thérèse thus explained a little of her doctrine, but always in the midst of distress, because of the opposition of her surroundings and the sermons she had to listen to. Her teaching was quite different from all this. In her obscure contemplation she had made the discovery of the God who is Love, an obscure discovery but one which she grasped almost by second nature and which created certitude in the depths of her soul. God is Love. She could say:

"I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections ... through Mercy. All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with Love." There was nothing but this in God.

The searching went on in darkness. Thérèse only explained what she had to explain, either for the novices or when asked to write the story of her life later. Habitually she lived in the dark. We might say that she found herself bogged down in what is often called the purification of the spirit. This consists far less in keen sufferings marked by distinct stages - some of these there were indeed - than in a muddled fog or kind of quicksand in which one becomes enmired and unable to move. This trial continued in anguish, but with upward thrusts toward God and convictions that she had found him. There was an apparent contradiction between her progressive discovery of sin and of sinful tendencies in herself and others, and her discovery of God.

The God whom Thérèse discovered was the God of Love. At the same time she saw that around her, and even in her Carmel, God was not known. The God who is Love was not known! They knew the God of justice, quid pro quo, and they tried to acquire merits. But, thought Thérèse, this was not the way to win him. God is Love, God is Mercy. But what is Mercy? It is the Love of God which gives itself beyond all demands and rights.

The Council of Trent declared that God bestows his gifts in two ways: out of justice, that is, as a reward for merits, and out of Mercy, that is, surpassing all merit. Thus he is true to his own nature, for he is Love, Goodness which pours itself out. He has a need to give. Therein ties his joy.

Thérèse read the Gospels. What did she find there? Mary Magdalen: God had forgiven her much, and therefore she loved much." Thérèse also contemplated the prodigal son and the fathers joy in receiving him back: joy, for this was his opportunity to give himself. There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance. What glorifies God and "delights him' is to be able to give himself, and give himself freely. This was Thérèse's discovery: what gives God joy is the power to give more than what is required by strict justice, freely, based on our needs and the exegencies of his nature which is Love, and not on our merits.

Thérèse felt acutely the tension of her surroundings, the opposition between her light, her needs, and what she saw being practiced around her . People kept score with God. When you stood before the eternal Father who was to judge you, he would look at your list of merits. You would have obtained so many indulgences, you would have so many merits, and your place would be assigned. For her part Thérèse said: I shall take care not to present any merits of mine, but only those of our Lord. As for me, I shall have nothing, I do not want to present anything, I prefer to let God love me as much as he wants." Then she added, "It is because of this that I shall get such a good reception." Here we have the heart of her teaching. - P. Parie-Eugene ocd, from Carmel in the Desert

The 'alpargates' of St. Therese.
The traditional footwear of Discalced Carmelite nuns.


  1. I wish I could see God in this way. She must be so popular in Heaven!

  2. I recently read Celine's book and I was awestruck at what she witnessed seconds before Therese passed from this world. She describes the changing expressions on her sister's face as one of concern, then surprise and then elation and she concluded that those in the room with her were witnesses to Therese's Final Judgment, when God showed her the state of her soul.

    Thanks for the photo of the "alpargates". Now I know why I love espadrilles so much.

  3. Oh I wish and pray that I had that confidence. She is the only saint that I felt wouldn't yell at me for all my...yuckiness

  4. So much here to think about... thank you and Happy Feast Day of St. Therese!

  5. Little Way, thanks for posting that about the way Therese died...I've been rereading it all day.

    I remember as a kid thinking, yeah, life is like a test and God grades you at the end - kind of like the other nuns in St. Therese's convent thought. But even then I knew that can't be quite right. Therese is still trying to teach me that it's not about "merits", it's about love.

    It's strange to be an adult and still be so stupid. I sat at adoration yesterday and thought, OK, I'm going to just sit here and let God love me... and all of a sudden I feel uncomfortable, like this is a waste of time because I'm not DOING anything, or that I am insulting Him by presuming He just wants me to sit there being loved when I'm so imperfect. The Little Flower was so devoid of these hang-ups, so trusting. I pray today she grants us all a little more love and trust.


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