Today is the Memorial of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote and spoke words which were nothing short of spectacular expressions of love. If we visually learned how to suffer by watching the life and papacy of John Paul II, then certainly those lessons on how to suffer can also be read in the words of the Little Flower. She was a Victim Soul of Divine Love. Her intimacy with Christ was mystical, as evidenced in her words, and the love she received as well as the love she returned was beyond human capacity. She had no personal desires – that is to say, she only wanted what God wanted. She completely gave herself to Him. Read her words below and see if you don’t find within yourself a mixture of amazement, wonder, and holy perplexity.
* * * * * *
It is so sweet to call God, "Our Father"! . . . I cannot well see what more I shall have in Heaven than I have now; I shall see God, it is true, but, as to being with Him, I am that already even on earth.
I have had several transports of love, and one in particular during my Novitiate, when I remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as though a veil were thrown over all earthly things. But, I was not then consumed by a real fire. I was able to bear those transports of love without expecting to see the ties that bound me to earth give way; whilst, on the day of which I now speak, one minute - one second - more and my soul must have been set free. Alas! I found myself again on earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.
In this world there is no fruitfulness without suffering - either physical pain, secret sorrow, or trials known sometimes only to God. When good thoughts and generous resolutions have sprung up in our souls through reading the lives of the Saints, we ought not to content ourselves, as in the case of profane books, with paying a certain tribute of admiration to the genius of their authors - we should rather consider the price which, doubtless, they have paid for that supernatural good they have produced.
During my postulancy it cost me a great deal to perform certain exterior penances, customary in our convents, but I never yielded to these repugnances; it seemed to me that the Image of my Crucified Lord looked at me with beseeching Eyes, and begged these sacrifices.
Our Lord's will fills my heart to the brim, and hence, if aught else is added, it cannot penetrate to any depth, but, like oil on the surface of limpid waters, glides easily across. If my heart were not already brimming over, and must be filled by the feelings of joy and sadness that alternate so rapidly, then indeed would it be flooded by a wave of bitter pain; but these quick-succeeding changes scarcely ruffle the surface of my soul, and in its depths there reigns a peace that nothing can disturb.
Were it not for this trial, which is impossible to understand, I think I should die of joy at the prospect of soon leaving this earth.
I desire neither death nor life. Were Our Lord to offer me my choice, I would not choose. I only will what He wills; it is what He does that I love. I do not fear the last struggle, nor any pains - however great - my illness may bring. God has always been my help. He has led me by the hand from my earliest childhood, and on Him I rely. My agony may reach the furthest limits, but I am convinced He will never forsake me.
I am besieged by the devil. I do not see him, but I feel him; he torments me and holds me with a grip of iron, that I may not find one crumb of comfort; he augments my woes, that I may be driven to despair . . . And I cannot pray. I can only look at Our Blessed Lady and say: "Jesus"! How needful is that prayer we use at Compline: "Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata"! (Free us from the phantoms of the night). Something mysterious is happening within me. I am not suffering for myself, but for some other soul, and Satan is angry.
Oh, how I love Our Blessed Lady! Had I been a Priest, how I would have sung her praises! She is spoken of as unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation . . . She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her splendor eclipses that of all the Saints as the rising sun makes all the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe that she will greatly increase the splendor of the elect . . . Our Mother Mary! Oh! How simple her life must have been!
I know that just at this moment O Lord has such a longing for a tiny bunch of grapes - which no one will give Him - that He will perforce have to come and steal it . . . I do not ask anything; this would be to stray from my path of self-surrender. I only beseech Our Lady to remind her Jesus of the title of Thief, which He takes to Himself in the Gospels, so that He may not forget to come and carry me away.
It is my dearest wish ever to bend beneath the weight of God's gifts, acknowledging that all comes from Him.
I shall die soon. I do not say that it will be in a few months, but in two or three years at most; I know it because of what is taking place in my soul.
This is my secret: I never reprimand you without first invoking Our Blessed Lady, and asking her to inspire me as to what will be most for your good, and I am often astonished myself at the things I teach you. At such times I feel that I make no mistake, and that it is Jesus Who speaks by my lips.
Some notes from a concert far away have just reached my ears, and have made me think that soon I shall be listening to the wondrous melodies of Paradise. The thought, however, gave me but a moment's joy - one hope alone makes my heart beat fast: the Love that I shall receive and the Love I shall be able to give!
I feel that my mission is soon to begin - my mission to make others love God as I love Him . . . to each soul my little way . . . I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth. From the very heart of the Beatific Vision, the Angels keep watch over us. No, there can be no rest for me until the end of the world. But when the Angel shall have said: "Time is no more!" Then I shall rest, then I shall be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete.
What draws me to my Heavenly Home is the summons of my Lord, together with the hope that at length I shall love Him as my heart desires, and shall be able to make Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him throughout eternity.
I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in Heaven; my desire is to continue my work for the Church and for souls. I ask this of God, and I am convinced He will hear my prayer. You see that if I quit the battlefield so soon, it is not from a selfish desire of repose. For a long time now, suffering has been my Heaven here upon earth, and I can hardly conceive how I shall become acclimatized to a land where joy is unmixed with sorrow. Jesus will certainly have to work a complete change in my soul - else I could never support the ecstasies of Paradise.
When I suffer much, when something painful or disagreeable happens to me, instead of a melancholy look, I answer by a smile. At first I did not always succeed, but now it has become a habit which I am glad to have acquired.
O my God! How good Thou art to the little Victim of Thy Merciful Love! Now, even when Thou joinest these bodily pains to those of my soul, I cannot bring myself to say: "The anguish of death hath encompassed me." I rather cry out in my gratitude: "I have gone down into the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil, because Thou, O Lord, art with me."
And Thérèse’s last words on earth as she gazed at her Crucifix were:Oh! . . . I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . Thee!