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 28, 2008

St. Therese of Lisieux part 3

This is the third installment of a three part series. You can find part one here and part two here. I decided to post this paper because St. Therese's feast day is coming in less than a week and secondly, one of our readers mentioned in a comment that St. Therese's parents will be beatified on October 19. From my reading of her autobiography Story of A Soul I came to deeply admire her father because of how he took care of Therese and her sisters after his wife died.

Many authors have written on different topics within Story of a Soul, a large number of authors have focused entire books on St. Therese’s little way. Fr. Francois Jamart O.C.D. wrote a book of commentary on different themes that St. Therese wrote about in her autobiography. He writes specifically on the section of Story of a Soul, which deals with St. Therese’s discovery of the vocation of love within the Mystical Body of the Church. Jamart references the passage from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that St. Therese was meditating upon and states: “She learned that all gifts, even the most perfect, that are distributed to the various members, are valueless unless they are animated by love and that charity is the great way that leads securely to God.” It is true that each member of the Church has a general and specific vocation and many tools are needed, but one is the most requisite and that is love. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Since love is the most important of the theological virtues it ought to be sought after and practiced in order to discern a vocation because love is the root of the actions of the Church’s members. Jamart states, “She had even offered herself as a victim to merciful Love so that she might love God with His own Love.” It is St. Therese’s victim hood to the love of God that fills her with the love that only God can give. It is this same love that allowed the apostle to preach and the martyrs to die. This love is not be possessed but it is meant to possess those discerning their vocation. It is also in this that one realizes that this love desires to give itself away. She offered herself to this extravagant love and this is what allows her to “Render to God love for love and fulfill all vocations.”

Jerry Kemper’s section in St. Therese; Doctor of the Little Way writes on the fraternal charity that St. Therese exhibited in her life. He describes her love as the root of all that she did. In all of her struggles with her fellow Carmelites, she would “Look for a sister’s virtues and good motives.” Even in her dying days, St. Therese never forgot the fact that her vocation was rooted in love. As she laid in the courtyard of the convent her fellow sisters would come to cheer her up and her sisters were worried that they were disturbing her. She replied: “How can I write about charity if I do not show charity to my well intentioned fellow sisters.” Even in her illness she does not allow herself to compromise her strong commitment to love. How easy it would have been to be short-tempered with one of the sisters that annoyed her. It was not until after her death that some of the sisters realize how much love she gave to each one of them. This love was freely given and she was never reluctant to give her love to her family or to her fellow sisters. When one is able to love the way that St. Therese loved, they are able to catch sight of what God is calling them to.

Fr. Bernard Bro OP wrote four statements that summarize St. Therese’s teaching. One of them relates to vocational discernment in that we receive our calling and the ability to do so from God. Our calling and ability find their source in love. He writes: “Love lives by reciprocity; to love is to accept that the One who loves me gives me whatever is necessary to respond to him.” It is in this statement that one can realize that as one discerns a vocation they ought to concentrate on the love that they have received from God and how they respond to that love. The response to the love given from God is where a person’s calling lies. For St. Therese, her response to God’s love is her charity and her prayers for the salvation of souls and praying for priests. Each vocation has a response to love and it appears in the imitation of God and Jesus. Parents imitate God the Father when they shower down love upon their spouse and their children. Priests imitate Christ in giving their life as a ransom and by providing the sacraments for the lay faithful. Those who are consecrated to the religious life imitate Christ because they too, give their life over to their religious order and to their apostolate. Love desires to give itself away and it is in this self-gift that the married person, the priest, and the consecrated respond to this love.

As one looks back at St. Therese’s life, they realize that her love was extravagant because she gave herself so freely to God’s love. St. Therese desired to be an apostle, a prophet, and a teacher. She became these things by giving herself over to the same love that allowed the apostles to preach and the martyrs to die for their faith. Her self-sacrifice allows those who have followed her to rediscover the fact that each Christian’s vocation is rooted in the love that God showers down upon us and our own vocation is our response to that love.

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