“I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He lives and acts in me.”Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Manuscript C folio 36r
On this Sunday of the Resurrection, it’s important to underline the essential elements of personal prayer, which are its missionary and priestly dimensions. Indeed, prayer, which is the most intimate thing in our relationship with God, is never a solitary act, for it is always lived in communion with the Mystical Body of Christ.
This is how St. Edith Stein understood it when she wrote: “Whoever enters Carmel (and we should say: whoever enters the path of prayer), is not lost to his own, but is theirs fully for the first time; it is our vocation to stand before God for all” (Letter 174, 14 May 1934).
To understand these missionary and priestly dimensions, we will listen at length to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who wanted to conclude her autobiography (MsC 34r–36v) by sharing what she understood about her call to mission:
Mother, I think it is necessary to give a few more explanations on the passage in the Canticle of Canticles: “Draw me, we shall run” […] What is it then to ask to be “Drawn” if not to be united in an intimate way to the object which captivates our heart? […]
Dear Mother, this is my prayer: I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He lives and acts in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say: “Draw me,” the more also the souls who will approach me (poor little piece of iron, useless if I withdraw from the divine furnace), the more these souls will run swiftly in the odor of the ointments of their Beloved, for a soul that is burning with love cannot remain inactive. […]
All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who filled the world with the light of the Gospel teachings. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous Friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses? A scholar has said: “Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will lift the world.” What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.
Thérèse had already understood that her vocation to Carmel had placed her at the heart of the Church in order to be love (cf. MsB 3v).
Now, the heart’s function is to sustain the life of the different parts of the body. The heart receives and sends back blood to oxygenate and nourish the organs, and this is precisely the mission we can accomplish spiritually when we pray.
We have seen that prayer places us with Jesus before the Father to receive and respond to His Love; it’s the place where we fulfill our vocation as sons and daughters in relation to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Thus, prayer becomes the privileged moment to associate ourselves with Jesus’ own prayer and to join the Father’s plan for humanity.
From then on, my prayer is no longer simply my prayer; my relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is no longer simply my personal relationship; I become aware that I am a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
In prayer, we are placed in the heart of the Church to live in communion with all the members of this Body: we stand facing the Father with Jesus in the name of all, to present to the Father the intentions and sufferings of all people, and to ask the Father to bless, accompany, and grant grace to all.
As the heart, we are in communion with all the members of the Mystical Body to present their lives to the Lord and to intercede for them so that they may receive the grace they need.
The priestly dimension of prayer is born from this missionary dimension, which is inherent in prayer. To understand it, we can reread the conclusion of manuscript C where Thérèse boldly takes up the priestly prayer of Jesus (Jn 17:4-24), knowing, in her spiritual genius, how to make a few necessary modifications. She repeats most of Jesus’ words; but in order to avoid any ambiguity, she omits or modifies the text in regard to Jesus’ divine nature.
Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words You addressed to the heaven Father, the last night which saw You on our earth as a traveler and a mortal. […] [F]or me will finally come the last night, and then I want to be able to say to you, O my God:
“I have glorified you on earth; I had finished the work you gave me to do. And now do you, Father, glorify me with yourself, with the glory I had with you before the world existed.
“I have manifested your name to those whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they have learned that whatever you have given me is from you; because the words you have given me, I have given to them. And they have received them, and have known of a truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
“I pray for them, not for the world do I pray, but for those whom you have given me, because they are yours; and all things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep in your name those whom you have given to me.
“But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, in order that they may have joy made full in themselves. I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
“Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those who through their word are to believe in me.
“Father I will that where I am, these also whom you have given me may be with me, that they may see my glory which you have given me, because you loved me from the foundation of the world. And I have made known your name to them, and will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Having illustrated in an eminent way the missionary and priestly dimensions of prayer, Thérèse testifies by her life and her words that prayer is one of the most serious responsibilities that God has entrusted to humanity.
According to the Father’s plan, prayerful persons exercise their baptismal priesthood in that they become united to the salvation of others, and, in an attitude of offering and intercession, they participate in the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ. Believers join Jesus’ desire to lead his brothers and sisters to the Father. With Christ, we dare to say “Draw me, we shall run” to draw all people to God.
We will have the whole Easter season to put this baptismal responsibility into practice in the light of Easter! Christ is risen, alleluia!
Father Antoine-Marie Leduc, ocd
Discalced Carmelite Online Lenten Retreat
Meditation for Easter (excerpt)
Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
We always refer to the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux for the vast majority of our quotes concerning Saint Thérèse, Saint Zélie, and Saint Louis Martin, but if you would like to purchase any of the English translations that appear on the Archives website, please visit the website of our Discalced Carmelite friars at ICS Publications.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: Artist Natalie Ewert imagines St. Thérèse of Lisieux at prayer in a chapel, surrounded by stained glass and vigil candles. Image credit: ©Natalie Ewert (Used by permission)
Alleluia! It seems hard to come up with fresh words about The Resurrection. Our thoughts are so feeble. What an awesome message this Father has delivered! Thank you for this light.