Quote of the day: 28 August

The Two Conversions:

Teresa and Augustine

 

 

Albert Bouts, Ecce Homo, ca.1510, óleo sobre tabla, Convento de Carmelitas Descalzas, Toledo
Ecce Homo
Albert Bouts
Oil on panel, ca.1510
Carmel of Toledo
As Discalced Carmelite scholars indicate, it was this image of the Ecce Homonot a statue as translators often render the term imagen—but this image of “the much wounded Christ” that moved St. Teresa to throw herself “down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears” in her famous conversion experience during Lent of 1554. Teresa herself gave this image to her daughters in Toledo. | Photo credit: Teresa, de la rueca a la pluma

 

From The Book of Her Life, Chapter 9

Well, my soul now was tired; and, in spite of its desire, my wretched habits would not allow it rest.

It happened to me that one day entering the oratory I saw an image they had borrowed for a certain feast to be celebrated in the house. It represented the much wounded Christ and was very devotional so that beholding it I was utterly distressed in seeing Him that way, for it well represented what He suffered for us.

I felt so keenly aware of how poorly I thanked Him for those wounds that, it seems to me, my heart broke. Beseeching Him to strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears…

 

Augustine confessions 1475 20190308_connorsbooks_7054
Bob Connors recently donated his collection of nearly 600 rare books to the University of Chicago Library. His favorite book is the oldest in the collection, a 1475 copy of Augustine’s Confessions. Learn more here. | Photo credit: Jean Lachat / University of Chicago Office of Communications

 

At this time they gave me The Confessions of St. Augustine. It seems the Lord ordained this, because I had not tried to procure a copy, nor had I ever seen one.

I am very fond of St. Augustine, because the convent where I stayed as a lay person belonged to his order; and also because he had been a sinner, for I found great consolation in sinners whom, after having been sinners, the Lord brought back to Himself. It seemed to me I could find help in them and that since the Lord had pardoned them He could also pardon me. But there was one thing that left me inconsolable, as I have mentioned, and that was that the Lord called them only once, and they did not turn back and fall again; whereas in my case I had turned back so often that I was worn out from it. But by considering the love He bore me, I regained my courage, for I never lost confidence in His mercy; in myself, I lost it many times.

 

Avila_Augustinian-School_Convento_de_Nuestra_Señora_de_Gracia_Wikimedia Commons
Convent of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, Ávila, where Saint Teresa was educated by the Augustinian nuns | Zarateman / Wikimedia Commons

 

Oh, God help me, how it frightens me, my soul’s blindness despite so much assistance from God! It made me fearful to see how little I could do by myself and how bound I became so that I was unable to resolve to give myself entirely to God.

As I began to read the Confessions, it seemed to me I saw myself in them. I began to commend myself very much to this glorious saint. When I came to the passage where he speaks about his conversion and read how he heard that voice in the garden, it only seemed to me, according to what I felt in my heart, that it was I the Lord called.


From the Confessions VIII, 12:28-29

I flung myself down somehow under a fig-tree and gave free rein to the tears that burst from my eyes like rivers, as an acceptable sacrifice to you. Many things I had to say to you, and the gist of them, though not the precise words, was: “O Lord, how long? How long? Will you be angry for ever? Do not remember our age-old sins.” For by these I was conscious of being held prisoner. I uttered cries of misery: “Why must I go on saying, ‘Tomorrow… tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not put an end to my depravity this very hour?”

I went on talking like this and weeping in the intense bitterness of my broken heart. Suddenly I heard a voice from a house nearby—perhaps a voice of some boy or girl, I do not know—singing over and over again, “Pick it up and read, pick it up and read.” My expression immediately altered and I began to think hard whether children ordinarily repeated a ditty like this in any sort of game, but I could not recall ever having heard it anywhere else. I stemmed the flood of tears and rose to my feet, believing that this could be nothing other than a divine command to open the Book and read the first passage I chanced upon; for I had heard the story of how Antony had been instructed by a gospel text. He happened to arrive while the gospel was being read, and took the words to be addressed to himself when he heard, Go and sell all you possess and give the money to the poor: you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. So he was promptly converted to you by this plainly divine message. Stung into action, I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting, for on leaving it I had put down there the book of the apostle’s letters. I snatched it up, opened it and read in silence the passage on which my eyes first lighted: Not in dissipation and drunkenness, nor in debauchery and lewdness, nor in arguing and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh or the gratification of your desires. I had no wish to read further, nor was there need. No sooner had I reached the end of the verse than the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away.


 

The Second Conversion of Saint Teresa Cuzco School 1694
The Second Conversion of Saint Teresa
Cuzco School, 17th c.
Oil on canvas, ca. 1694
Convento del Carmen San José, Santiago, Chile
Photo credit: PESSCA

 

I remained for a long time totally dissolved in tears and feeling within myself utter distress and weariness. Oh, how a soul suffers, God help me, by losing the freedom it should have in being itself; and what torments it undergoes! I marvel now at how I could have lived in such great affliction. May God be praised who gave me the life to rise up from a death so deadly.

 

 

Augustine, A 1997, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Villanova University, translated from the Latin by Maria Boulding, OBS, viewed 28 August 2019, <https://www1.villanova.edu/content/villanova/mission/office/programs/pellegrinaggio/_jcr_content/pagecontent/download_4/file.res/confessions_viii.pdf>.

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 11 August

The God of mercy does not cease coming to the aid of his weak creature. The life of human beings and their most ambitious desires have limits, while God’s love has none. This love accompanies us along our way, surprises us in our erring wayward paths, and reminds us of what we have forgotten; it repeats in our hearts the promises made on a day, long ago, and speaks to us at length of our first faith, of that first charity, of that incomparable innocence regained with holy baptism. A stream of tears floods one’s conscience at the sight of the loss of those treasures, and to this the Spirit of God bears witness. Christ’s mercy endures everything, and does not think evil but rejoices in the good; it intercedes for us, and knocks on the door of our heart, it lowers itself until it conquers the soul with its love full of humility.

What Christ accomplished in Judea during the thirty-three years of his earthly life is reproduced in every human heart.

Even still today, right up until death, his love continues to struggle with our egoism. And we see today what results: conquered by eternal love and awakened from a deep sleep, we remember the promises made at holy baptism, raise our eyes to heaven, and present ourselves again before the Lord’s face, now no longer as infants who speak through the mouth of others spiritually substituting for them, but as persons mature in their own reason and will. And along with the prodigal son, we say: “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread in abundance, while here I die of hunger! I shall arise and go to my father” (Lk 15:17-18).

Saint Raphael Kalinowski
Baptism and Religious Vows

 

Parable of Prodigal Son Master of St Christopher 1530 Netherlands Getty Museum
Scenes from the Life of the Prodigal Son (detail) 
Master of Saint Christopher (Flemish, active first half of 16th century)
Pen and brown ink and gray wash, over traces of black chalk, 1530
J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Paradisi Clavis: Novena 6

O my Jesus! What a sight it is when You through Your mercy return to offer Your hand and raise up a soul that has fallen in sin after having reached this stage! How such a soul knows the multitude of Your grandeurs and mercies and its own misery! In this state it is in truth consumed and knows Your splendors. Here it doesn’t dare raise its eyes, and here it raises them up so as to know what it owes You. Here it becomes a devotee of the Queen of heaven so that she might appease You; here it invokes the help of the saints that fell after having been called by You. Here it seems that everything You give it is undeserved because it sees that it doesn’t merit the ground on which it treads. Here, in approaching the sacraments, it has the living faith to see the power that God has placed in them; it praises You because You have left such a medicine and ointment for our wounds and because this medicine not only covers these wounds but takes them away completely. It is amazed by all this. And who, Lord of my soul, wouldn’t be amazed by so much mercy and a favor so large for a betrayal so ugly and abominable? I don’t know why my heart doesn’t break as I write this! For I am a wretched person!

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Life: Chapter 19


¡Oh Jesús mío! ¡Qué es ver un alma que ha llegado aquí, caída en un pecado, cuando Vos por vuestra misericordia la tornáis a dar la mano y la levantáis! ¡Cómo conoce la multitud de vuestras grandezas y misericordias y su miseria! Aquí es el deshacerse de veras y conocer vuestras grandezas; aquí el no osar alzar los ojos; aquí es el levantarlos para conocer lo que os debe; aquí se hace devota de la Reina del Cielo para que os aplaque; aquí invoca los Santos que cayeron después de haberlos Vos llamado, para que la ayuden; aquí es el parecer que todo le viene ancho lo que le dais, porque ve no merece la tierra que pisa; el acudir a los Sacramentos; la fe viva que aquí le queda de ver la virtud que Dios en ellos puso; el alabaros porque dejasteis tal medicina y ungüento para nuestras llagas, que no las sobresanan, sino que del todo las quitan. Espántanse de esto. Y ¿quién, Señor de mi alma, no se ha de espantar de misericordia tan grande y merced tan crecida a traición tan fea y abominable? Que no sé cómo no se me parte el corazón, cuando esto escribo; porque soy ruin.

Santa Teresa de Jesús
Libro de la Vida: Capítulo 19

 

Teresa in a Nativity scene Antwerp 18th c Manuel Navarro
Saint Teresa depicted in a Nativity scene | Teresa, de la rueca a la pluma

 

SCRIPTURE
Romans 7:21-25

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

NOVENA PRAYER

O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel,
Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
Immaculate Virgin,
assist me in this my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me and show me
herein that you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Queen of heaven and earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart
to succor me in this necessity.
There are none that can withstand your power!
O help me and show me herein
that you are my Mother.

Our Lady, Queen and Beauty of Carmel,
pray for me and obtain my requests!
Sweet Mother, I place this cause
in your hands!

 

Novena citations taken from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. 
ICS Publications Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars,

Quote of the day: 15 May

I only have to cast my eyes on the holy gospel, all at once I breathe in the fragrance of the life of Jesus and I know where to run… It isn’t the first place, but the last place that I aim for; instead of moving ahead with the Pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax collector; but above all I imitate Magdalene’s behavior, her astonishing or rather her loving audacity that charms the Heart of Jesus seduces my own. Yes, I feel it, even if I’d have on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I’d go — my heart,  broken from repentance — to throw myself in the arms of Jesus because I know how much he cherishes the prodigal child who comes back to him. It’s not because the good Lord in his prevenient mercy has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I rise up to him through trust and love…

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Manuscript C 35 recto – 37

 

Child and Tears_coolbite1_Flickr
Child and Tears
“When a child can be brought to tears, and not from fear of punishment, but from repentance he needs no chastisement. When the tears begin to flow from the grief of their conduct you can be sure there is an angel nestling in their heart.” — Horace Mann
Photo: coolbite1 / Flickr

 

Learn more about St. Thérèse’s boundless trust in God’s merciful love here

Manuscript C translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission

 

 

 

 

Marie du jour: 9 May

His Majesty well knows that I can boast only of His mercy, and since I cannot cease being what I have been, I have no other remedy than to approach His mercy and to trust in the merits of His Son and of the Virgin, His Mother, whose habit I wear so unworthily, and you wear. Praise Him, my daughters, for you truly belong to our Lady.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Interior Castle: Third Dwelling Places, Chapter 1

Juan_Rodríguez_Juárez_-_The_Virgin_of_the_Carmen_with_Saint_Theresa_and_Saint_John_of_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project
The Virgin of the Carmen with Saint Theresa and Saint John of the Cross
Juan Rodríguez Juárez (1675 – 1728)
Oil on canvas
Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico
The Interior Castle, First Dwelling; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

On Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday after Communion, my faculties remained in such deep suspension that I couldn’t even swallow the host; and, holding it in my mouth, after I returned a little to myself, it truly seemed to me that my entire mouth was filled with blood. I felt that my face and all the rest of me was also covered with this blood, as though the Lord had just then finished shedding it. It seemed to me warm, and the sweetness I then experienced was extraordinary. The Lord said to me: “Daughter, I want my blood to be beneficial to you, and don’t be afraid that My mercy will fail you. I shed it with many sufferings, and you enjoy it with the great delight you are aware of; I repay you well for the banquet you prepare me this day.”

Saint Teresa of Avila
Spiritual Testimonies: 22 Eucharistic experience
(Probably Avila, March 30, 1572)

Entry into Jerusalem_NESTEROV_1900
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem
Mikhail Vasilevich Nesterov, (Russian, 1862 – 1942)
Painting – gouache, 1900
The State Russian Museum – Saint Petersburg

 

Spiritual Testimonies: Number 22
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
ICS Publications Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

 

Quote of the day: 3 April

Óleo_conmemorativo_de_la_Beatificación_de_Santa_Teresa_de_Los_Andes,_Parque_O'Higgins_de_Santiago
Commemorative oil painting of Teresa of Jesus of the Andes that was used to create the banner for the Mass of Beatification in Santiago, 3 April 1987 during Saint John Paul II’s apostolic journey to Chile | Philippus2011 / WikimediaCommons

This is her message: happiness is in God alone; only God is infinite joy.

The Church today proclaims Sister Teresa de los Andes to be Blessed and, as of this day, she venerates her and invokes her with this title.

Blessed, blissful, happy, is the person who has made the Gospel’s beatitudes the center of her life; that she has lived them with heroic intensity.

In this way, our Blessed, having put into practice the beatitudes, incarnated in her life the most perfect example of holiness that is Christ. Indeed, Teresa of the Andes radiates the happiness of poverty of spirit, the goodness and meekness of her heart, the hidden suffering with which God purifies and sanctifies his chosen ones. She hungers and thirsts for justice, loves God intensely and wants God to be loved and known by all. God made her merciful in her total immolation for priests and for the conversion of sinners; peaceful and conciliatory, she sowed understanding and dialogue all around her. She reflects, above all, the bliss of purity of heart. Indeed, she gave herself totally to Christ and Jesus opened her eyes to the contemplation of his mysteries.

God also permitted her in advance to taste the sublime joy of living beforehand on earth the bliss and joyfulness of communion with God in the service of others.

This is her message: happiness is in God alone; only God is infinite joy. Young people of Chile, youth of Latin America, discover in Sister Teresa the joy of living the Christian faith to its very extreme! Take her as a model!

Saint John Paul II

Homily, Mass of Beatification of Sister Teresa of the Andes (excerpts)
Parque O’Higgins, Santiago de Chile
Friday 3 April 1987

Beatification Teresa de los Andes 1987 Blessing
Saint John Paul II waves farewell to the faithful at the conclusion of the Mass of Beatification of Teresa of Jesus of the Andes in Parque O’Higgins, Santiago, Chile, 3 April 1987 | Photo: Santuario Teresa de los Andes

Explore Saint John Paul II’s 1987 Apostolic Journey to Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina here

English translation of St. John Paul II's homily is the blogger's own work; do not reproduce without permission.
TERESA AVILA - By proceeding with humility IGsize
Saint Teresa of Avila writes, “in the final analysis, by proceeding with humility, through the mercy of God, we will reach that city of Jerusalem, where all that has been suffered will be little, or nothing, in comparison with what is enjoyed.” (The Book of Her Foundations, Chap. 4)
SABETH - Let us adore him in Truth IGsize
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

The True Poison of the Pharisees — The Frank Friar

 

Trumpeter swan on Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
USFWS Mountain-Prairie Trumpeter swan on Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge | Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS

I believe a mistake that far too many people make is misunderstanding the Pharisees. When the Pharisees are brought up they are depicted as men who live the law strictly and cruelly that results in the heaping of burdens laced upon their own people…. (35 more words)

via The True Poison of the Pharisees — The Frank Friar

Advent 22: King

Oh, my soul! Let the will of God be done; this suits you. Serve and hope in His mercy, for He will cure your grief when penance for your faults will have gained some pardon for them. Don’t desire joy but suffering. O, true Lord and my King! I’m still not ready for suffering if Your sovereign hand and greatness do not favor me, but with these, I shall be able to do all things.

Soliloquies 6: Painful Longing For God

 

Christ revealing Himself to Saint Teresa_Quito School_Carmen Alto
Christ revealing Himself to Saint Teresa
Quito School (Ecuador, 17th c.)
Mural painting, c. 1653
Upper cloister, Convento del Carmen Alto, Quito, Ecuador

 

¡Oh ánima mía! Deja hacerse la voluntad de tu Dios; eso te conviene. Sirve y espera en su misericordia, que remediará tu pena, cuando la penitencia de tus culpas haya ganado algún perdón de ellas; no quieras gozar sin padecer. ¡Oh verdadero Señor y Rey mío!, que aun para esto no soy, si no me favorece vuestra soberana mano y grandeza, que con esto todo lo podré.

Exclamaciones del Alma a Dios: Capítulo 6

Soliloquies: 6, Painful Longing For God; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
BAEZ - We must build bridges
The word of God came, then, over John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He is not the announcer who carries the announcement, it is the announcement who carries him, impels him, launches him onward: and he crossed the whole region of the Jordan. The word of God is always in flight in search of men and women, simple and true, to create new beginnings and processes. Straightening, smoothing, filling in empty spaces … This young and austere prophet paints a harsh and difficult landscape, which has the hard and violent features of history: all violence, exclusion, and injustice are a ravine that needs to be filled… We must build bridges with mercy, ask for forgiveness, repairing the damage caused. We have to smooth out the rough edges in our relationships.

Excerpt from a homily for the Second Sunday of Advent by Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D., Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua. Translation by @carmelitequotes. Listen to the full audio of the Bishop Báez’s homily here.

Advent 5: Banquet

On Palm Sunday after Communion, my faculties remained in such deep suspension that I couldn’t even swallow the host; and, holding it in my mouth, after I returned a little to myself, it truly seemed to me that my entire mouth was filled with blood. I felt that my face and all the rest of me was also covered with this blood, as though the Lord had just then finished shedding it. It seemed to me warm, and the sweetness I then experienced was extraordinary. The Lord said to me: “Daughter, I want my blood to be beneficial to you, and don’t be afraid that My mercy will fail you. I shed it with many sufferings, and you enjoy it with the great delight you are aware of; I repay you well for the banquet you prepare me this day.”

He said this because for more than thirty years I have received Communion on this day when possible and have striven to prepare my soul to give hospitality to the Lord.

Saint Teresa of Avila

 

10677084456_988cef543b_o.jpg
Detail of the Last Supper from the Passion Window, Strasbourg Cathedral | damian entwistle

 

El día de Ramos, acabando de comulgar, quedé con gran suspensión, de manera que aun no podía pasar la Forma, y teniéndomela en la boca verdaderamente me pareció, cuando torné un poco en mí, que toda la boca se me había henchido de sangre; y parecíame estar también el rostro y toda yo cubierta de ella, como que entonces acabara de derramarla el Señor. Me parece estaba caliente, y era excesiva la suavidad que entonces sentía, y díjome el Señor: “Hija, yo quiero que mi sangre te aproveche, y no hayas miedo que te falte mi misericordia; Yo la derramé con muchos dolores, y gózasla tú con tan gran deleite como ves; bien te pago el convite que me hacías este día”.

Esto dijo porque ha más de treinta años que yo comulgaba este día, si podía, y procuraba aparejar mi alma para hospedar al Señor.

Santa Teresa de Jesús

Excerpt from Spiritual Testimonies: 22 Eucharistic experience; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Advent 4: Revealed to babes

When a gardener carefully tends a fruit he wants to ripen before its time, it’s not to leave it hanging on a tree but to set it on his table. It was with such an intention that Jesus showered His graces so lavishly upon His little flower, He, who cried out in His mortal life: “I thank thee, Father, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to babes,” willed to have His mercy shine out in me. Because I was little and weak He lowered Himself to me, and He instructed me secretly in the things of His love.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

 

47384013_1796047600522748_3642176131508994048_o
Photo by Father David Bohnsack, M.C.C.J.
Fr. David is a Comboni Missionary from North America who is currently serving in Chad. Learn more about Comboni Missions on the North American Province website

 

Cuando un jardinero rodea de cuidados a una fruta que quiere que madure antes de tiempo, no es para dejarla colgada en el árbol, sino para presentarla en una mesa ricamente servida. Con parecida intención prodigaba Jesús sus gracias a su florecita… El, que en los días de su vida mortal exclamó en un transporte de alegría: «Te doy gracias, Padre, porque has escondido estas cosas a los sabios y a los entendidos, y las has revelado a la gente sencilla», quería hacer resplandecer en mí su misericordia. Porque yo era débil y pequeña, se abajaba hasta mí y me instruía en secreto en las cosas de su amor.

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús

The Story of a Soul: Manuscript C, folio numbers 48 verso and 49 recto
Translated by Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

The Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux on Purgatory

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear”

THE TEACHING OF SAINT THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX ON PURGATORY

 

Doctor of the Church for the third millennium

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997, felt the calling in the monastery to teach others and wanted to be a teacher (docteur).1  Early on, God revealed the mysteries of His Love to her. She writes about this: “Ah! Had the learned who spent their life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection’s secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit!” 2

In his apostolic letter Divini Amoris Scientiapublished when St. Thérèse was declared Doctor of the Church, the Holy Father says that one should not look for a scientific revelation of God’s mysteries. “Thus we can rightly recognize in the Saint of Lisieux the charism of a Doctor of the Church, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit she received for living and expressing her experience faith, and because of her particular understanding of the mystery of Christ… That assimilation was certainly favored by the most singular natural gifts, but it was also evidently something prodigious, due to a charism of wisdom from the Holy Spirit.” 3

Her writings offer an abundance of ideas concerning practically every field in theology and spirituality, a multitude which even a hundred years after her death has been far from exhausted. As the popes repeatedly express: Thérèse of Lisieux is a gift to the Church. Before the year 2000, she was declared Doctor of the Church, becoming the third woman amongst the thirty-three recognized Doctors of the Church. She died young. Not only is she the youngest of all, but also the best known, loved, and read! Already she has given the Church a lot, and in the dawn of a new millennium, she will continue to bless the faithful with her many gifts. Thus, she is also known as “Doctor of the Church of the third millennium.”

“One does not need to go to Purgatory”

Little Thérèse’s theology is a theology that springs from life, a theology of experience. She received a fervent Catholic upbringing at home, in her parish community, as well as at the school of the Benedictine nuns in Lisieux, and thus, she was familiar with the teaching of Purgatory. Being led by the Holy Spirit, thoughts, notions, and ideas developed which finally became, “The teaching of the Little Flower on Purgatory.” 4

The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters,  Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:

You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory. 5

She even said that we would offend God if we didn’t trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: “Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to Purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.” 6 Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don’t know God, who are not childlike, who don’t trust. It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away.7

If St. Thérèse is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first, there is the problem of the aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, “Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love” (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory. 9 St. John Vianney said, “It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must endure, exceeds our imagination.” 10

One also has to take into consideration that even practicing Christians are convinced that even the good and faithful and those consecrated to God will have to be exposed to purification in Purgatory for a certain amount of time. The reason for this is always the same: “It is not easy to avoid Purgatory. No one is a saint, and I will certainly have to spend some time there myself.” They add to this that “God is just” or “we certainly deserve this.”

Therefore, it is even more amazing what St. Thérèse has to say. Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinité to have the faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven right away. She wondered “If I fail even in the smallest things, may I still hope to get straight to heaven?” St. Thérèse, who knew well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: “Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love.” 11

God is Father rather than Judge

Once St. Thérèse had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Fébronie, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Thérèse encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St. Thérèse. St. Thérèse tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Fébronie her point of view but with no success as Sr. Fébronie clung to belief. For St. Thérèse God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding, “My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires.”

The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Fébronie together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Thérèse had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: “O my Mother, my Sr. M. Fébronie came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her: She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.” 12

St. Thérèse’s “doctrine” in 7 keywords

  1. Purgatory became a rule rather than the exception

An infinite number of souls who suffer in Purgatory and for whom the Church prays daily after consecration did not need to go there. If we think in human terms, God does not wish for us to need Purgatory. God does not put us here on earth, where we are tested and are suffering after the fall, only to let us suffer again — and much worse — in Purgatory. Everyone receives enough graces in order to go straight to God after passing the trials on earth. However, Purgatory is an emergency entry to Heaven for those who have wasted their time. However, what God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule — to go straight to heaven  became the exception.

  1. To cope with the “inevitable” is a grave error

Since God does not really want Purgatory, He does not want it for me either! But then I also have to not want it! Nobody would expose themselves to the danger of Purgatory by living a mediocre and as is the case so often today a sinful life. If they only thought of the intense sufferings in Purgatory. In this regard, the mystics unanimously say that the least suffering in Purgatory is much greater than the greatest suffering here on earth! The reason for this is that once in Purgatory, one does not go through the time of God’s Mercy but of God’s Justice. Here, the Lord’s word applies: “I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last copper’ (Lk 12:59). The many who carelessly say, “I will probably spend some time there,” are gravely wrong. Nobody just spends some time there, one has to suffer there like one has never suffered nor could have suffered while on earth. One often even suffers a long time there also. If the Poor Souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.

  1. Purgatory is a waste of time

This is what St. Thérèse says, “I know that of myself I would not merit even to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have an entrance there. But I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of Purgatory. I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them.” 13 It is true that Purgatory is a wonderful grace, for if needed, without the purification in Purgatory we would not go to Heaven, and the work of art which God intended and created us to be would not be completed. But St. Thérèse is right: at the moment of our death, we already have our place in Heaven. Afterward, there is no growth in grace anymore. Whoever does not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

  1. We need a more positive image of God

We already know that St. Thérèse told her novices that they offended God when they thought they would go to Purgatory. That is a very shocking statement: for if this is correct millions of Christians are offending God or at least hurt Him. And yet this is the case. They are focused only on themselves, thinking not without reason — that they deserve Purgatory. They do not notice God Who is by their side and would love to help them so much. The fact that we fear Purgatory so much also has to do with a rather negative image that we have of God. We, Christians of the 20th Century, were like so many, raised with the image of a strict God, anxious to punish us as often as we deserve it. This thinking goes back to heresies like Jansenism, Quietism, or Calvinism. 14

  1. Love banishes fear

The question of whether Heaven will follow right after death is a question of trust. God does not need our merits in order to take us straight to Him but He needs all of our trust. Or the other way around — it is not our sins that can prevent God from giving us this grace but rather our lack of trust. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that everything depends solely on trust. There is no trust without perfect love. And vice versa, there is no love without trust.

And this is exactly what the Apostle John writes in his first letter, “In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

This text enlightens our topic very much. Judgment Day is the day of our death. Whoever achieves perfect love at the moment of their death sees God as so merciful and generous that they cannot believe in punishment in Purgatory. We are dealing with the same kind of grace in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this Sacrament has as its real fruit the wiping out of punishment due to our sins.15 After those who have received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, others present often notice that the sick enter a period of growing peace and trust, together with a great surrender to the Will of God, and even serenity and desire for Heaven. This also applies to those who up to that point did not believe or even lived in mortal sin. Even these people, as the great theologians of the scholastics say for example, St. Albert the Great or St. Bonaventure go straight to Heaven without having to go through Purgatory first. This shows the wonderful grace coming from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.16

  1. The last will be the first

While many Christians do receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, experience tells us that they do not go straight to Heaven. The mystics often relate that many priests and religious suffer a long time and have to wait for their release. However, all of them or almost all of them have received the Sacrament of the Anointing. What is the reason for this? The answer is certainly that they did not receive the Sacrament with the necessary repentance or surrender to the Will of God, or that they did not want to change their flaws and vices a long time before their death.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux tells us that she heard that sometimes great saints with many merits come before the Judgment of God, but have to go to Purgatory because our justice before God is often unclean. That is why she recommends to give away immediately all the merits of our good deeds, and that it is better to appear before God empty-handed.17 She recommends to her oldest sister and godmother Marie, to be given Heaven free of charge by God.18

While on the one hand, the first ones don’t always get to Heaven first, on the other hand, there are enough examples that the last ones become the first ones. Thérèse refers in her writings to the Lord’s mercy towards the good thief,19 and wishes that the story from the “desert fathers,” about how a great sinner called Paesie died out of love and is being taken straight to heaven, should be added to her autobiography, “Souls will understand immediately, for it is a striking example of what I’m trying to say.”20 

When our great hour comes, like St. Thérèse writes to Abbe Roulland, missionary in China, if only we trust, the Blessed Virgin will obtain “the grace of making an act of perfect love” should we have “some trace of human weakness” and so will we reach heaven immediately after death.21

  1. St. Thérèse’s teaching, a great message for the third millennium

One can rightfully say that Thérèse is turning all common opinions on Purgatory upside down.22 She wants to appear before God empty-handed and explains why it can be easier for sinners who have nothing to rely upon to reach Heaven than the great saints with all their merits. She emphasizes that trust alone is enough, that merits are no guarantee but often an obstacle for the straight way to Heaven, and that sins do not need to be an obstacle. After a ‘messed-up’ life, God can still take one straight to Heaven if the dying person only has trust. And how easy it can be to trust if there are no merits but only one’s misery! Through trust she shows the shorter way to Heaven to the small and humble. And so many can and will go that way. She writes about this to her sister Marie: “… what pleases Him (God) is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy… That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why should this treasure not be yours?…”23

As has been said, she has made sanctity available for everyone through her little way, and this is also true for the straight way to Heaven… This will no longer be an exception. Once those who are smart enough to gather from the treasures of our new Doctor of the Church will walk this way easily, especially those who want to be part of the legion of little souls which St. Thérèse asked God for at the end of her manuscript B, “I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!”24 Yes, by listening to her wonderful message there will be many, many souls… and with that, Purgatory stops being the unavoidable detour to Heaven!

Conclusion

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus gave us a lot to think about. There are yet many new thoughts to be understood in terms of theology. For us, however, the most important, even existentially significant of everything she wrote is the message on Purgatory. The question of what happens to us after death should move us deeply. Let us just remember Sr. Fébronie and her suffering in Purgatory; her silent message from the next world should move us. “It seemed,” says Thérèse, “as if she wanted to say: If I had listened to you I would not be here now.” This is actually shocking when you think about it. One has to admit that Sr. Fébronie entered the next world through the wrong door. And with her, thousands and millions who would have managed to avoid Purgatory. And why did they not achieve this? The simple reason is that nobody showed them the correct way. Considering this, one does understand that Thérèse is a true gift to the Church. God gave her to us as leader and comforter for the apocalyptic days in which we very obviously live. Her message concerning Purgatory is a true grace of God’ s merciful love for the moment of our death. One can apply the urgent exhortation of our LORD: “‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8).

Father Hubert van Dijk, ORC


Originally published on the blog, HEALING GRACE. We are grateful to blogger Fred Schaeffer, SFO for bringing Father Van Dijk’s message, and this particular message of Thérèse, to the world.

Footnotes:

  1. “I would like to enlighten souls — as did the prophets and the Doctors.” St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Story of a SoulICS. Washington DC, 1996, Ms B, 2v, pg. 192.
  2. St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, ICS, Washington DC, 1996, Ms A, 49r. Pg. 105.
  3. Divini Amoris, l.c., Nr. 7.
  4. Philippe de la Trinité, La Doctrine de Sainte Thérèse sur le PurgatoireEditions du Parvis, CH-1648 Hauteville/Suisse 1992, pg. 16.
  5. Annales de Sainte ThérèseLisieux. Nr. 610, Febr. 1982. Translated from the German.
  6. Last ConversationsICS. Washington DC. 1971, pg 273.
  7. La Doctrine, l.c. pg 16. Translated from the German.
  8. St. John of the Cross, The Dark NightBook II, ch. 20: “Since these souls – few that there be – are already extremely purged through love, they do not enter purgatory.”
  9. Ferdinand Holbőck. Das Fegefeuer, Salzburg 1977, page 94f. Translated from the German.
  10. La Doctrine, l.c.page 22f. Translated from the German.
  11. Lucien Regnault, La Pensee de Ste. Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus sur Ie Purgatoire in Annales de Sainte Thérèse, 1986, Suppl. Nr. 101, pages 21-29, quote on page 26. Translated from the German.
  12. Annales de Sainte Thérèse, Nr. 610. Feb. 1983, page 5Translated from the German.
  13. Story of a Soul, Ms A, 84v, pg.181.
  14. La Pensee, l.c., page 23. Translated from the German.
  15. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Qu. 30art. 1. Translated from the German.
  16. P. Philipon. Vie SpirituelleJan./Feb. 1945, pages 21-23; 16-17. Translated from the German.
  17. La Doctrine, l.c. page 13. Translated from the German.
  18. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Letters St. Thérèse of LisieuxICS, Washington DC, 1913, Vol. II, pg 998, LT 197.
  19. Pious RecreationsRP 6, 7v, translated from the German.
  20. Last Conversationspg. 89. Yellow Notebook, 11 July, Note 6.
  21. Letters of St. Thérèse of LisieuxVol. II, pg. 1093, LT 226.
  22. La Pensee, l.c., pg. 28. Translated from the German.
  23. Letters of St. Thérèse of LisieuxVol. II, pg. 999, LT 197.
  24. Story of a Soulpg. 200. Ms B, 5v.

 

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity Novena – Day 7

It is this intimacy with Him “within” that has been the beautiful sun illuminating my life… it is what sustains me today in my suffering

Intention

For the grace of a greater intimacy with Christ: it sounds like a wonderful thing, but we may think, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.” [Ps 139:6] On the contrary, intimacy with Jesus is a frequent theme in the homilies of Pope Francis, who always emphasizes how close the Lord is to us and how he never leaves us:

The Lord is a friend forever. Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself…  The Lord… is always with you and he is happy to be with you. As he did with his first disciples, he looks you in the eye and he calls you to follow him, to “put out into the deep” and to “cast your nets wide” trusting in his words and using your talents in life, in union with him, without fear. Jesus is waiting patiently for you. He awaits your response. He is waiting for you to say “yes”. 

Practicing the presence of God, St. Elizabeth grew in this friendship and intimacy with the Lord to the point that his presence became her sustenance in darkness and suffering. Like St. Paul, she desires that we might grow in this love, too, so that we may “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” [Eph 3:19]

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Speaks 

“It is this intimacy with Him “within” that has been the beautiful sun illuminating my life, making it already an anticipated Heaven; it is what sustains me today in my suffering.”

Meditation 

Consider the points of suffering in your life. Jesus loves you infinitely! Are you permitting his love to sustain you in your suffering? Where are you trying to bear your burdens alone? Let him love you and uphold you.

NOVENA PRAYER

O God of bountiful mercy,
you revealed to Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
the mystery of your secret presence
in the hearts of those who love you,
and you chose her to adore you in spirit and in truth.
Through her intercession
may we also abide in the love of Christ,
that we may see what you see
and love in the way that you love
and thus merit to be transformed
into temples of your life-giving Spirit
to the praise of your glory.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

pine cone kid
Pine cone kid | Kevin Conor Keller
Excerpt from Letter 333, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel 
Copyright © 2003 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC
Homily by Pope Francis (full text), Jubilee for Boys and Girls, 24 April 2016

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