Quote of the day: 14 February

The patron saint of the missions is from your region. From Lisieux, Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face has radiated her missionary ardor in the world. Her spiritual teaching, of a luminous simplicity, continues to touch the faithful of all conditions and all cultures. It is right that we should ask her to help the Catholics of France to follow her way of holiness and to develop their solidarity with their brothers in Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world to share the gifts received from Christ, our salvation.

Saint John Paul II
Ad Limina address to bishops from western France
14 February 1992

Notre Dame de Quebec
Notre Dame de Québec | Photo: Charlyne

Quote of the day: 10 February

That superabundant share of divine light and grace enkindled in Thérèse so ardent a flame of love, that she lived by it alone, rising above all created things, till in the end it consumer her; so much so that shortly before her death she could candidly avow she had never given God anything but Love…

Therefore do We desire earnestly that all the Faithful of Christ should render themselves worthy of partaking in the abundant profusion of graces resulting from the intercession of “little Thérèse.” But We desire much more earnestly that all the faithful should study her in order to copy her, becoming children themselves, since otherwise they cannot, according to the oracle of the Master, arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven.

If the way of spiritual childhood became general, who does not see how easily would be realized the reformation of human society which We set ourselves to accomplish at the commencement of our Pontificate…

Pope Pius XI
Homily for the Canonization of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus
17 May 1925

1925-canonisation-204x87_Sr Marie du Saint Esprit

Quote of the day: 5 February

Your life will pass like an instant.
On Carmel we are very near Heaven.
My beloved, my love has chosen you.
I have reserved a glorious throne for you!….

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
PN 16, Song of Gratitude of Jesus’s Fiancée

 

On 5 February 1895, Céline Martin was clothed in the Carmelite habit and began her novitiate in the Carmel of Lisieux. St. Thérèse wrote the Song of Gratitude of Jesus’s Fiancée as a gift for her sister’s clothing.

Quote of the day: 31 January

Springtime story of a little white flower written by herself and dedicated to the Reverend Mother Agnes of Jesus. It is to you, dear Mother, to you who are doubly my Mother, that I come to confide the story of my soul.

St Therese of the Child Jesus
Story of a Soul, MsA 02r

therese - i came to save souls spanish
Sí, el sufrimiento me tendió los brazos, y yo me arrojé en ellos con amor…
A los pies de Jesús-Hostia, en el interrogatorio que precedió a mi
profesión, declaré lo que venía a hacer en el Carmelo: «He venido para
salvar almas, y, sobre todo, para orar por los sacerdotes».  (Ms A, 69v)

Quote of the day: 10 January

The time for my reception of the Habit had arrived. I was accepted by the conventual chapter, but how could we dream of any kind of ceremony? Already they were talking of giving me the Habit without my going outside the cloister, and then they decided to wait. Against all expectation, our dear Father recovered from his second attack, and the Bishop set the ceremony for January 10.

St Therese of the Child Jesus
Story of a Soul, Ms A, 72r

To make the celebration complete

“She will be baptized this Saturday, all we need is you to make the celebration complete. Marie will be her godmother along with a young boy, about her age, as godfather.”

St. Zelie Martin
Letter to Madame Guérin, 3 January 1873

 

 

The Basilica of Notre-Dame of the Assumption at Alençon, France is famous as the location of the marriage of Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; their nuptials were celebrated in the church on Tuesday, 13 July 1858 at midnight.
 
St. Thérèse was baptized in this same church on Saturday, 4 January 1873, two days after her birth. The 1925 window in the baptistry, designed by executed by the native Alençon stained glass artist Louis Barillet, represents the baptismal rite. On 17 July 1944, the Church of Notre-Dame of the Assumption suffered enormously in the Allied bombardment of the city. Miraculously, the Barillet window in the baptistry chapel survived undamaged.
Above the baptismal font hangs St. Thérèse’s baptismal gown, which had been handed down from her sister Léonie. The godfather of whom Saint Zélie writes was Paul-Albert Boul, age 9,  the son of a friend of Saint Louis Martin. Barillet indicated the presence of the godparents Marie Martin and Paul-Albert Boul by the baptismal candle, which they both hold.
 
On the Second Sunday of Advent, 6 December 2009, this church of the Diocese of Séez celebrated the decree of Pope Benedict XVI, issued 6 June 2009, which elevated the historic Church of Notre-Dame of the Assumption to the rank of a minor basilica.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame of the Assumption is one of the most famous pilgrimage locations in France and in the Diocese of Séez. To make your own pilgrimage to Alençon, France visit the English language website of the Shrine of Alençon. When you visit the basilica, the baptistry chapel is the first chapel on the left as you enter the church.
 
To view the baptistry window in expanded detail and to see more stained glass windows in the Basilica of Notre-Dame of the Assumption, visit the Flickr basilica photo album of Patrick Berthou
alenÇon - portail assomption de la ste vierge
Notre-Dame of the Assumption over the portal of the basilica in Alençon

Quote of the day: 4 January

O Jesus, my divine spouse! May I never lose the sec­ond robe of my Baptism! Take me before I can commit the slightest voluntary fault. May I never seek nor find anything but yourself alone.

St Therese of the Child Jesus
Prayer 2 — profession note

Quote of the day: 2 January

My little girl was born last night, Thursday [January 2], at eleven-thirty. She’s very strong and in very good health. They tell me she weighs eight pounds. Let’s say six, which is still not bad. She seems very sweet… I barely suffered a half hour. What I felt before was practically nothing. She’ll be baptized tomorrow, Saturday.

Saint Zélie Guérin Martin
Letter from Mme Martin to Mme Guérin, January 3, 1873

THERESE - Happy Birthday pink rose cake
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Advent 21: Emmanuel

Mary, at the top of Calvary standing beside the Cross
To me you seem like a priest at the altar,
Offering your beloved Jesus, the sweet Emmanuel,
To appease the Father’s justice…
A prophet said, O afflicted Mother,
‘There is no sorrow like your sorrow!”
O Queen of Martyrs, while remaining in exile
You lavish on us all the blood of your heart!

Master of the Dominican Effigies, active c.1328-1350; The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion
Master of the Dominican Effigies (active c.1328–1350)
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Te me apareces, Virgen, en la sombría cumbre del Calvario, de pie junto a la cruz,
igual que un sacerdote en el altar,
ofreciendo tu Víctima, tu Jesús amadísimo, nuestro dulce Emmanuel,
para desenfadar la justicia del Padre.
Un profeta lo dijo, ¡oh Madre desolada!:
¡No hay dolor semejante a tu dolor!»
¡Oh Reina de los mártires, quedando en el destierro,
prodigas por nosotros toda la sangre de tu corazón!

The Poetry of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (PN 54) 
Translated by Fr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

Mary as Mother: Guadalupe 2018

Carmelite saints have all taken up this theme of Mary as mother. St. Thérèse of Lisieux memorably stated: “She is more Mother than Queen.” For many centuries the Carmelite liturgy has shown special affection for the Gospel scene at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-27) where Mary, “became the Mother of all, associated with the offering of her Son and given to all people when Jesus Himself gave Her to the beloved disciple”.

Seeing Mary as Mother we are encouraged to reflect on our relationship with her: she cares for us as Mother; we love and respect her as sons and daughters. Moreover, in viewing Mary as our Mother, we are pointed towards her Divine Son in whose allegiance we live. From early times the Fathers of the Church have seen that a correct Mariology serves to guarantee a correct Christology.

~Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. and Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.
Letter on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the Carmelite scapular

0_download
Virgin of Guadalupe
Mexican, early 18th c.
Oil on canvas, about 1700
Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

 

Advent 11: Little lamb

Like a little lamb far from the sheepfold,
I merrily frolicked unaware of the danger,
But, O Queen of Heaven! my darling Shepherdess,
Your invisible hand knew how to protect me
While I played on the edge of the precipice.
You were already showing me the summit of Carmel.
I understood then the austere delights
That I would have to love to fly away to Heaven.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

142876597_8069d6fad3_o
Lost little lamb | Matthew Kirkland
Cual tierno corderillo lejos de la majada,
jugueteaba alegre ignorando el peligro.
Mas ¡oh Reina del cielo, mis pastora querida!,
tu blanca, tu invisible, dulce mano sabía protegerme.
Y así, aunque yo jugaba al borde de los hondos precipicios,
ya tú me señalabas la cumbre del Carmelo,
y ya yo comprendía las austeras delicias
que habría de abrazar para volar al cielo.

Sta. Teresa del Niño Jesús

Poetry: PN 53
Translated by Fr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Advent 10: Splendor

Letter of Invitation to the Wedding of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Being unable to invite you to the Nuptial Blessing which was given on Mount Carmel, September 8, 1890, (the heavenly court alone was admitted), you are nevertheless asked to be present at the Return from the Wedding which will take place Tomorrow, the Day of Eternity, on which day Jesus, Son of God, will come on the Clouds of Heaven in the splendor of His Majesty, to judge the Living and the Dead.

The hour being as yet uncertain, you are invited to hold yourselves in readiness and to wait.

 

MsA77v
Page 77 verso from St. Thérèse’s original manuscript, her “letter of invitation”

 

Tarjeta de Invitación a las Bodas de Sor Teresa del Niño Jesús de la Santa Faz

No habiendo podido invitaros a la bendición nupcial que les fue otorgada en la montaña del Carmelo, el 8 de septiembre de 1890 (a la que sólo fue admitida la Corte Celestial), se os suplica que asistáis a la Tornaboda, que tendrá lugar Mañana, Día de la Eternidad, día en que Jesús, el Hijo de Dios, vendrá sobre las Nubes del Cielo en el esplendor de su Majestad, para juzgar a vivos y muertos.

Dado que la hora es incierta, os invitamos a estar preparados y velar.

 

The Story of a Soul: Manuscript A, folio number 77 verso
Translated by Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Advent 8: Holy house

I was indeed happy to be on my way to Loreto. I am not at all surprised the Blessed Virgin chose this spot to transport her blessed house, for here peace, poverty, and joy reign supreme; everything is primitive and simple. The women have preserved their graceful Italian dress and have not, as in other cities, adopted the Paris fashions. Loreto really charmed me!

And what shall I say about the Holy House? Ah! how deep was my emotion when I found myself under the same roof as the Holy Family, contemplating the walls upon which Jesus cast His sacred glance, treading the ground bedewed with the sweat of St. Joseph, under this roof where Mary had carried Jesus in her arms, having carried Him in her virginal womb. I beheld the little room in which the angel had appeared to the Blessed Virgin. I placed my rosary in the little bowl of the Child Jesus. What ravishing memories!

 

174864035_54e42d68d2_o
Abandoned casina near Loreto, Italy | Federico

 

Me alegré de emprender el camino hacia Loreto. No me extraña que la Santísima Virgen haya elegido este lugar para transportar a él su bendita casa. Allí la paz, la alegría y la pobreza reinan como soberanas. Todo es sencillo y primitivo. Las mujeres han conservado su vistoso traje italiano y no han adoptado, como en otras ciudades, la moda de París. En una palabra, ¡Loreto me encantó!

¿Y qué puedo decir de la santa casa…? Me emocionó profundamente encontrarme bajo el mismo techo que la Sagrada Familia, contemplar las paredes en las que Jesús posó sus ojos divinos, pisar la tierra que José regó con su sudor y donde María llevó en brazos a Jesús después de haberlo llevado en su seno virginal… Visité la salita donde el ángel se apareció a la Santísima Virgen… Metí mi rosario en la pequeña escudilla del Niño Jesús… ¡Qué recuerdos tan maravillosos…!

 

The Story of a Soul: Manuscript C, folio number 59 verso
Translated by Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
The Milky Way over Balanced Rock sandstone rock formation with t
O Immaculate Virgin! You are my Sweet Star
Giving Jesus to me and uniting me to Him.
O Mother! Let me rest under your veil
Just for today.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (PN 5)
The Milky Way over Balanced Rock sandstone rock formation with the bright star Sirius on the right at Arches National Park, Moab, Utah | Diana Robinson

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.

Advent 2: Lever

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.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

 

110721685_caa67c0f6f_o
“This spatula is a first class lever. The fulcrum is the point where the arm meets the flat part of the spatula. The resistance is on the flat part, and effort is applied at the point where my hand is. This lever is a first class lever which means it multiplies force and speed, but in this case, the spatula would just multiply force. Because the spatula just multiplies force, the mechanical advantage is greater than one.” | nerlich4

 

Un sabio decía: «Dadme una palanca, un punto de apoyo, y levantaré el mundo». Lo que Arquímedes no pudo lograr, porque su petición no se dirigía a Dios y porque la hacía desde un punto de vista material, los santos lo lograron en toda su plenitud. El Todopoderoso les dio un punto de apoyo: EL MISMO, EL SOLO; Y una palanca: LA ORACIÓN, que abrasa con fuego de amor. Y así levantaron el mundo. Y así lo siguen levantando los santos que aún militan en la tierra. Y así lo seguirán levantando hasta el fin del mundo los santos que vendrán.

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús

The Story of a Soul: Manuscript C, folio numbers 36 recto and verso
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 GRACEWe 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.

 

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