Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

St. Thérèse of Lisieux part 2

This post is a continuation from my post last Sunday.

The second thing that leads her to the realization of her vocation was love itself. The role that charity takes in any vocation is very evident in St. Thérèse’s life because: “I understood that love comprised all vocations.” Since love comprises all vocations it seems that St. Thérèse desired to be transformed into love. This reality is vital to the discernment of one’s vocation because it shows that one’s vocation lies in how they respond to love from God and neighbor. St. Thérèse’s response to God’s love was shown through the way she related to the other nuns in the convent. As she came to the realization that her vocation is love, she recognized that the second of the greatest commandments given by Jesus in Matthew 22:39 is a source for her vocation. St. Thérèse wrote: “The more united I was to Him the more also did I love all my sisters. I desired to forget myself for them and to be as devoted to them as I could.” This quotation is very similar to her desire to “seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self.” Her love caused her to forget her own desires, “And little Thérèse, on the very eve of her death, said to her sister Celine, 'I have said everything. Everything is accomplished. It is love alone that counts.'” For St. Thérèse it was love alone that mattered for her, her eternal rest would come the next day. d’Elbee states: “After her death, a deluge of miracles fell from Heaven to make us say, 'She was not wrong; it is love alone that counts.'”

Monsignor Vernon Johnson, a convert from Anglicanism, writes on the topic of love in the book focused on the spiritual life of St. Thérèse. He brings together many themes, which were vital to St Thérèse’s own realization of her vocation to love and his own conversion. There are many places in St. Thérèse’s autobiography in which she focuses on her relationship with God the Father and her own father, Louis Martin. Msgr. Johnson focuses primarily upon the love that a father has for his children. He writes: “Almighty God is her Father and she his little child, their relationship must be a relationship of love.” Johnson describes Fr. Bernard Bro’s OP thought that love is something that is reciprocal. This idea is fundamental to being able to understand how St. Thérèse defines love and how her definition was developed. The love that she received from both God and her father allow her to give the love that she gave back to each. Msgr. Johnson states: “God has placed St. Thérèse, to rescue us from all that is false in our concept of love and lead us back to that simple, direct, spontaneous love which, in the depths of our souls, we really long for.” Msgr. Johnson also notes that in the basilica dedicated to St. Thérèse in Lisieux, France, there are inscriptions in the arches. One of the inscriptions is the verses from Matthew 22:37-39 that contain the two greatest commandments. On another is found: “There is but one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus and to save souls for Him that He may be more loved.” These two quotations were so important to St. Thérèse that they are a permanent reminder of what St. Thérèse believed in.

St. Thérèse realizes that “The most necessary and the most noble [member] of all could not be lacking.” In each member of the Church, St. Thérèse sees something that is desirable and like the innocent child that she is she says: “I desired to see myself in them all.” This desire is not selfish because as a little girl, she was presented with a choice. A relative of hers had a basket of different dolls and trinkets and St. Thérèse’s sister Celine chose a ball of wool. Thérèse chose all of the things in the basket and even the basket itself. She reflected on this time in her life and she writes: “I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do and forget self.” As she is going through the periods of restlessness, she is suffering greatly because she desires to be all things but she cannot because she has not been able to realize that her vocation is love. In vocational discernment there are difficult times because one has not been able to make sacrifices or there is an inordinate attachment to sin or something of this earth.

St. Thérèse acknowledges that her path to entering Carmel was plagued with many difficulties, but she is still able to realize that “the Church had a heart and that this heart was burning with love.” The rest that consoled her was sufficient enough for her to come to understand that “Love comprised all vocations.” Her desire to see herself in each vocation and role that St. Paul mentions in his Letter to the Corinthians is a witness to the love that she has for serving the Church. However, one cannot participate in each of the three vocations so there must be a sacrifice made in one way or another. The reality is that one can choose only one vocation. In choosing one vocation a person must sacrifice the joys of the other vocations. She emphasizes the fact that any human action has its roots in that same burning love, which inspired the apostles to preach and many martyrs to die. The apostles preach out of love for Christ and the martyrs died because their love for Christ surpassed their love for their own life. The apostles and the martyrs received their zeal from God, the same God who allows St. Thérèse to be transformed into love. She was not transformed in a physical sense but rather in the way that she was disposed to God and to her fellow nuns.

1 comment:

Maureen O'Riordan said...

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for your posts about St. Therese's vocation. I especially admire how she understood the unity of the vocations and of how closely united laypersons and religious and priests are. In the summer of 1897, in her last letter to her sister Leonie, who had already made three tries at convent life and was then living as a laywoman with her uncle and aunt, Therese wrote: "The only happiness on earth is to apply oneself in always finding delightful the lot Jesus is giving us. Your lot is so beautiful, dear little sister; if you want to be a saint, this will be easy for you, since at the bottom of your heart the world is nothing to you. You can, then, like us [like her three Carmelite sisters] occupy yourself with 'the one thing necessary;' that is to say, while you give yourself up devotedly to exterior works, your purpose is simple: to please Jesus, to unite yourself more intimately with Him." (Letters of St. Therese, Volume II (July 17, 1897). (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988, pp. 1148-49). "To apply oneself in always finding delightful the lot Jesus is giving us." Therese recognizes that it takes effort to be happy with our lot from one moment to the next. And she quotes 'the one thing necessary,' that phrase from the gospel story of Mary and Martha that is sometimes used to suggest the contemplative vocation is the better part, in a way that shows it is the one thing necessary for us all.

Please visit my Web site "St. Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway" at http://thereseoflisieux.org for articles and films about St. Therese and about the beatification of her mother and father on October 19, 2008. Thank you.

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