Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thérèse: The Little Saint of Hope

St. Thérèse Martin of Lisieux (1873-1897) did nothing spectacular in her life. She was only 24 years old when she died, and had spent a mere nine years in the Carmelite Monastery of Lisieux. Yet she was declared a saint of Church, the universal patron of the missions, and a Doctor of the Church!

As Fr. Conrad de Meester, OCD observes: "All she wanted was to live a hidden life with God, who was her Life...It was almost as if she had been saintly from the cradle, or only needed the benefit of the sun's rays to warm the seeds of holiness in her soul.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Like many other privileged souls, Thérèse had to grow and mature with much suffering and in total poverty. The brilliant intuitions of her faith are meaninful only when they are seen against the background of her personal life, with all its ups and downs and all its crises. Eventually she developed the capacity to represent everything in profoundly simple terms. This simplicity was the fruit of her ardent love, and of her imaginative, creative, but sorely tried attempt to reconcile the ultimately irreconcilable...to harmonize the total, unlimited response of God's lowly creature with God's inifinite love...

Thérèse is the saint of hope. She shows us with what liberating force God can take possession of us and work through us. For he operated through her, starting from her immediate surroundings, and helped her to become a revolutionary of love..." (Empty Hands: The Message of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pp. ix-xi)

On the last afternoon of her life, Thérèse remarked: " I do not regret having surrendered myself to love. Oh, no! I do not regret it, on the contrary!" Fr. de Meester concludes his wonderful book, Empty Hands: The Message of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: "Thérèse's last breath came with her last words: 'My God, I love you.' This was the supreme moment...Now love had taken full possession of her being. This was love as deep as the ocean and more radiant than the sun. This was life and joy immeasurable: unending life with Mary and with all the saints in Heaven; eternal life with God who is all in all. Hope had finally done its work." (p. 142)

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