What did Carmel mean to Thérèse?
In her childhood, she had dreamed of living a solitary life in a remote desert with her sister Pauline. Later, when she was offered an explanation of a Carmelite vocation, she responded with the feeling that “Carmel was the desert where God wanted her to go and hide.”
And so it was there she wanted to go “for Jesus alone” (Ms A 26r), for an adventure with God, unnoticed, in a spot where he alone could be found.
When she actually entered the Order, she knew immediately that she had not made a mistake:
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. … Everything thrilled me … I felt as though I had been transported into a desert. Our little cell, above all, filled me with joy. But the joy I was experiencing was calm, the lightest breeze did not undulate the quiet waters. … I was fully recompensed for all my trials. With what deep joy I repeated those words: “I am here forever and ever” (Ms A 69v).
Conrad de Meester, O.C.D.
Note: On 10 January 1889 St. Thérèse was clothed in the holy habit of Carmel in the Discalced Carmelite monastery of Lisieux, France. Concerning that day she wrote, “The wait had been long, but what a beautiful celebration it was! Nothing was missing, not even the snow!”
de Meester, C 2002, With Empty Hands: The Message of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated from the French by Seymour, M, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: Photographer Wouter de Bruijn captures this image of a late-blooming red rose covered in early winter snowfall. Image credit: Wouter de Bruijn / Flickr (Some rights reserved)
What a wonderful way to begin my day! What a great Anniversary. I can fully understand her feelings. I’ve been trying to enter religion for about 13 years. Currently waiting for fears about the pandemic to abate, so my Council can resume meeting, and reconsider me. I’m grateful now at my age that I didn’t relinquish my home, but I’m aware it’s a poor second best to a Carmelite cell, and the peace and integrity described here. The Carmelite Contemplative Circle I have been admitted to means everything to me. I will never forget bawling in a café, when I received the President’s email, welcoming me home. I can fully appreciate Therese’s happy face.
God is so good to us all, whether we recognize it or not! Thanks for sharing, Kathie.