Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Have I Done For Him Lately?

Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, Celine Martin, was at the bedside of her younger sister when The Little Flower passed from this world to the next.  Celine recalled that seconds before her final breath, a look of concern crossed Therese's face, followed by an expression of surprise and finally one of ecstasy.  Celine believed that those in the room with Sister Therese were privileged to witness the Final Judgment of the soul of a Saint.

About 8 years ago I attended an all-day conference on St. Therese and one of the priests who spoke about her believed that her death ultimately came about because her soul, in his words, "was ripped from her body, so great was her desire to be with Jesus."

That thought left me feeling very inadequate, as often happens when I take into account all that the Little Saint of Lisieux did for her beloved Jesus.

Dear little Céline,

Your letter filled me with consolation. The road on which you are walking is a royal road, it is not a beaten track, but a path traced out by Jesus Himself. The spouse of the Canticles says that, not having found her Beloved in her bed, she arose to look for Him in the city but in vain; after having gone out of the city, she found Him whom her soul loved! . . . Jesus does not will that we find His adorable presence in repose; He hides Himself; He wraps Himself in darkness. It was not thus that He acted with the crowd of Jews, for we see in the Gospel that the people were carried away when He was speaking. Jesus used to charm weak souls with His divine words, He was trying to make them strong for the day of trial . . . But how small was the number of Our Lord's friends when He was silent before His judges! . . . Oh! what a melody for my heart is this silence of Jesus . . . He made Himself poor that we might be able to give Him love. He holds out His hand to us like a beggar so that on the radiant day of judgment when He will appear in His glory, He may have us hear those sweet words: "Come, blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I did not know where to lodge, and you gave me a home. I was in prison, sick, and you helped me." It is Jesus Himself who spoke these words; it is He who wants our love, who begs for it . . . He places Himself, so to speak, at our mercy, He does not want to take anything unless we give it to Him, and the smallest thing is precious in His divine eyes . . .
Dear Céline, let us take delight in our lot, it is so beautiful. Let us give, let us give to Jesus; let us be miserly with others but prodigal with Him . . .
Jesus is a hidden treasure, and inestimable good which few souls are able to find for it is hidden, and the world loves what sparkles. Ah! if Jesus had willed to show Himself to all souls with His ineffable gifts, no doubt there is not one of them that would have despised Him. However, He does not will that we love Him for His gifts, He Himself must be our reward. To find a hidden thing one must hide oneself; our life must then be a mystery. We must be like Jesus, Jesus whose face was hidden. . . . "Do you want to learn something that may be of use to you?" says the Imitation.1 "love to be unknown and accounted for nothing . . . " And elsewhere: "After you have left everything, you must above all leave yourself; let one man boast of one thing, another of something else; as for you, place your joy only in contempt of yourself." What peace these words give to the soul, Céline. You know them, but do you not know all I would like to say to you? . . . Jesus loves you with a love so great that, if you were to see it, you would be in an ecstasy of happiness that would cause your death, but you do not see it, and you are suffering.
Soon Jesus will stand up to save all the meek and humble of the earth!. . .
1. Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis -- the 15th-century spiritual classic that has been companion to so many saints (eg. St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila) and continues to guide souls along the path to Heaven.
* Source: St. Thérèse of Lisieux: General Correspondence. John Clarke, O.C.D., translator. Volume II. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988.


  1. What a beautiful letter..what spiritual food! How humbling to realize that a teenager or at most a very young woman of twenty or so had such wisdom, such holiness, such single-hearted love for Jesus.

    Thank God for Therese and the other beautiful souls who cooperated with His Grace and loved Him so very much. I pray that God has many such souls.

    Meanwhile, for those of us who are mediocre at best, it is important not to become discouraged in comparison. The devil would love that. We have to just keep trying. At least it's humbling to realize how far we are from perfection.

    Thanks for sharing, Joyce. Therese always inspires! Bet she laughed at your "nun" post above :) You'd make a great Mother Superior!

  2. Yes Patricia, thank God indeed. I often think that my love for Jesus is not selfless love because I get so much more in return than I give. Therese loved Him with absolutely no regard for herself. Interesting your choice of the word mediocre. This was her admonition to novices who complained and grumbled about every little discomfort. "Would you be as the mediocre souls?"

    As for your last sentence...some of my nurses have taken to calling me Reverend Mother Joyce. I don't see what it is they do, but it's flattering and fun just the same. Totally unrealistic, but good for a smile here and there.
    Glad you you're feeling better!


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