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St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "Little sips of the Divine Will..."

Story of a Soul, Translation by John Clarke, O.C.D. prepared by Marc Foley, O.C.D. a Study Edition, ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C. 2005


What is it about St. Thérèse that has resonated so well throughout the years with God’s children? A Doctor of the Church, this young Nun who died at the age 24, isolated and cloistered from the world, is without a doubt one of the most popular Saints of modern-day Catholics. 

It seems so apparent... that as Jesus prepared us for the great Gift of Living in the Divine Will He gave us two preparatory devotions to ease us into the Gift, in his ever so loving, and merciful way.  St. Therese of Lisieux, with her “Little Way”, and St. Faustina Kowalska, and the gift of the “Divine Mercy”.

As I re-read the Story of a Soul, I thought I would highlight some of the themes contained therein which correspond to the writings and teachings of the Gift of the Divine Will.  For me personally, St. Thérèse and her spirituality seem to speak to me as I surrender all of my human will to the Blessed Trinity and allow Jesus to work into the emptiness (to the best of my capacity), that was once my ego.  Afterall, I am just a “little flower” and I have to rely on Jesus and His merciful love to carry me along as I let go of my will and learn to place all of my trust and faith in His loving care.

So I invite the reader to peruse these highlights and come to know little Thérèse and her “little way” as it relates to journeying in the Divine Will.  I think you will find this a wonderful gift that Therese has left us and one that will complement our beloved Luisa as we walk each and every day within the Circle of Light…

This is a work in progress... so the insights will grow as I go deeper and deeper into the pages of this beautiful story.

Carmelite Mantle...Hugh Owen
00:00 / 04:25
Hugh Owen commenting on Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

“This little incident of my childhood is a summary of my whole life; later on when perfection was set before me, I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, there were many degrees of perfection, and each soul was free to respond to the advances of Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking.  Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: I chose all!  I don’t want to be a saint by halves, I’m not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing; to keep my own will; so take it, for “I choose all that You will!” (p30)

“Ah! How sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said; “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!”  There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices’ for a long time now Jesus and poor little Therese looked at and understood each other.  That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean.  Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King.” (120-121)

“I have noticed in all the serious circumstances of my life that nature always reflected the image of my soul. On days filled with tears the heavens cried along with me; on days of joy the sun set forth its joyful rays in profusion and the blue skies were not obscured by a single cloud.” (p166)

“I assure you I too experience the feelings you are speaking about. However I don't allow myself to be trapped by it for I expect no reward at all on earth. I do everything for God and in this way I can lose nothing.” (p181)

“The more I approached the goal the more I saw my affairs all mixed up. My soul was plunged into bitterness but into peace too, for I was seeking God's will.” (p176)

"I made a resolution to give myself up more than ever to a serious and mortified life. When I say mortified, this is not to give the impression that I performed acts of penance. Alas, I never made any. Far from resembling beautiful souls who practiced every kind of mortification from their childhood, I had no attraction for this. Undoubtedly this stemmed from my cowardliness, for I could have, like Celine, found a thousand ways of making myself suffer. Instead of this I allowed myself to be wrapped in cotton wool and fattened up like a little bird that needs no penance. My mortifications consisted in breaking my will, always so ready to impose itself on others, and holding back a reply, and rendering little services without any recognition, and not leaning my back against the support when seated, etc. It was through the practice of these nothings that I prepared myself to become the fiancée of Jesus, and I cannot express how much this waiting left me with sweet memories." (p216)

"The Blessed Virgin made me feel it was really herself who smiled on me and brought about my cure. I understood she was watching over me, that I was her child. I could no longer give her any other name but Mama, as this appeared ever so much more tender than mother." (p192)

"Really, I was far too brazen!  Happily, God, who knows the depths of our hearts, was aware that my intention was pure and for nothing in the world would I have desired to displease Him.  I was acting  toward Him like a child who believes everything is permitted and looks upon the treasures of its Father as its own." (p211)

"I had declared at the feet of Jesus-Victim, in the examination preceding my Profession, what I had come to Carmel for: "I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests."  When one wishes to attain a goal, one must use the means; Jesus made me understand that it was through suffering that He wanted to give me souls and my attraction for suffering grew in proportion to its increase." (pp231-232)

"My desires were at last accomplished; my soul experienced a PEACE so sweet, so deep, it would be impossible to express it.  For seven years and a half that inner peace has remained my lot, and has not abandoned me in the midst of the greatest trials." {p230)

One Good ole Mother understood one day what I was experiencing, and she said laughingly during recreation; "My child, it seems to me you don't have very much to tell your Superiors."  "Why do you say that, Mother?"  "Because your soul is extremely simple, but when you will be perfect, you will be even more simple; the closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes."  The good Mother was right; however, the difficulty I had in revealing my soul, while coming from my simplicity, was a veritable trial; I recognize it now, for I express my thoughts with great ease without ceasing to be simple." (p234)

"I understood what real glory was.  He whose Kingdom is not of this world showed me that true wisdom consists in "desiring to be unknown and counted as nothing," in "placing one's joy in the contempt of self."  Ah!  I desired that, like the Face of Jesus, "my face be truly hidden, that no one on earth would know me."  I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten."  (p235)

"My desire for suffering was answered, and yet my attraction for it did not diminish.  My soul soon shared in the sufferings of my heart.  Spiritual aridity was my daily bread and, deprived of all consolation, I was still the happiest of creatures since all my desires had been satisfied." (p241)

"At the beginning of my spiritual life when I was thirteen or fourteen, I used to ask myself what I would have to strive for later on because I believed it was quite impossible for me to understand perfection better.  I learned very quickly since then that the more one advances, the more one sees the goal is still far off.  And now I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect and in this I find my joy." p(243)

"I should have spoken to you about the retreat preceding my Profession, dear Mother, before speaking about the trial I have mentioned; it was far from bringing me any consolations since the most absolute aridity and almost total abandonment were my lot.  Jesus was sleeping as usual in my little boat; ah! I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them.  Jesus is so fatigued with always having to take the initiative and to attend to otehrs that He hastens to take advantage of the repose I offer to Him.  He will undubtedly awaken before my great eternal retreat, but instead of being troubled about it this only gives me extreme pleasure."

"Just as all those that followed it, my Profession retreat was one of great aridity.  God showed me clearly, however, without my perceiving it, the way to please Him and to practice the most sublime virtues.  I have frequently noticed that Jesus doesn't want me to lay up provisions;  He nourishes me at each moment with a totally new food; I find it within me without my knowing how it is there.  I believe it is Jesus Himself hidden in the depths of my poor little heart:  He is giving me the grace of acting within me, making me think of all He desires me to do at the precise moment." (p260)

"At the time I was having great interior trials of all kinds, even to the point of asking myself whether heaven really existed.  I felt disposed to say nothing of my interior dispositions since I didn't know how to express them, but I had hardly entered the confessional when I felt my soul expand.  After speaking only a few words, I was understood in a marvelous way and my soul was like a book in which this priest read better than I did myself.  He launched me full sail upon the waves of confidence and love which so strongly attracted me, but upon which I dared not advance.  He told me that my faults caused God no pain, and that holding as he did God's place, he was telling me in His name that God was very much pleased with me." (p269)

"Oh! how happy I was to hear those consoling words!  Never had I heard that our faults could not cause God any pain, and this assurance filled me with joy, helping me to bear patiently with life's exile.  I felt at the bottom of my heart that this was really so, for God is more tender than a mother, and were you not, dear Mother, always ready to pardon the little offenses I committed against you involuntarily?  How often I experienced this!  No word of reproach touched me as much as did one of your caresses.  My nature was such that fear made me recoil; with love not only did I advance, I actually flew." (p270)

More to follow...
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