St. Thérèse

Happy feast of the Little Flower! I thought for today I would share three favorite quotes from St. Thérèse, with some commentary on each.

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”

There’s a woman I know who’s been married for 15 or so years. She’s terribly realistic about things, the brutally honest sort, and once said to me: “My husband is my path to heaven. I often ask God to help me look on him the way He looks at me. I really want to appreciate the good that’s in him, but then there’s always the other stuff, the stuff that bugs me. So I asked Jesus once to fix my head on this. And once during my hour of Adoration, this thought came to me clear as day, and I just knew it was Jesus because it didn’t agree with me at all: he’s your chance to love better than you would have if he didn’t bug you in the first place. The funny part is once I let myself see things this way, it’s like I suddenly started seeing through the parts of him I don’t like so much into good things in him I’d never noticed before. But let’s be straight, my bigger prayer is totally that God help MY HUSBAND see ME that way!”

“It’s true, I suffer a great deal–but do I suffer well? That is the question. What ineffable joy to carry our cross feebly.”

I knew a man who developed spinal meningitis and lived. Afterward he said to me: “I failed the test of faith, Tom. I complained and doubted and didn’t do a good job being strong for my wife and kids. I was too afraid for myself.” I thought long about that, and wrote him an email after sharing my thoughts on what it means for a Christian to “suffer well.” My focus was on how misconceptions about this topic can leave many people worse off in their suffering because of their faith, and not better. Here’s part of what I wrote: Suffering well doesn’t simply mean being strong, stoic or serene in the face of pain, nor does it require withholding from others any sign of struggle or fear or anger — or even brushes with despair — in the midst of suffering. Read Psalm 88. It’s a dark lament that ends with the words: “My one companion is darkness.” Suffering, especially intense suffering, is unruly and un-ideal. It can’t be romanticized while you’re in it. And our instinctual psycho-somatic responses are always unpredictable. For a Christian, suffering well in its deepest sense means uniting our hardships to the Cross of Jesus by an act of the will, a raw choice of consent against our inner ragings. “Take it, Lord, it’s yours. Do with it as you wish.” It means offering up to God on unsteady hands the inglorious sacrifice of life’s unpredictability that tears from our grip the power to control. It means turning our pain and desperation into a cry to God: “God, come to my assitance; Lord, come quickly to my aid!” It means inviting the fiat, the “yes” of Jesus in Gethsemane into our fretting trials, remembering that there He suffered an inner storm of agony. It means coming to terms with our helplessness, our need to be cared for by others; and this not simply as an unfortunate concession to regrettable weakness, but as a vocation, a summons to radically receive Christ’s power in a way only to be had in powerlessness (2 Cor. 12). It means never banishing God from the darkness, but seeking for Him there all the more ardently…knowing He descended into hell precisely to fill the night with His Presence.It means learning that perfect faith travels from clean and bright ideas about God into the darkness of deep mystery, which exacts from us not mere assent but unconditional surrender.It means discovering that the joy faith brings into suffering is not simply a naive optimism that “everything’s gonna be alright,” but rather a hope in an imperishable dawn beyond the valley of death. But sometimes — and this is a great mystery — suffering well means no more than consenting to being carried by others when we have nothing left to offer. These know the meaning of Luke 5:18-20.

“O Jesus, I know You command nothing that is impossible. You know how weak and imperfect I am, and You know only too well that I could never love the other nuns as You love them if You Yourself did not love them within me.”

I have no comment to make here. Just praying it with you. May He do this for us. Amen.

15 comments on “St. Thérèse

  1. nos says:

    For me in reflections such as these ,our friend Micheals nickname for me ” the hammer ” comes to mind . He in his wisdom knew I needed to hear this description of myself . Humility has never been a virtue I have been known for — no really just ask my wife,,, laughing out loud heartily… I pray that our GOOD GOD. give me the gift to do small things with much love so so so wonderful to hear you again my dear brother in CHRIST!!! Much love and hugs to you and yours P.B.W.Y.A.A. and by way of LP. ma y GOD bless you always.— M.G.B.Y.A.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Happy Feast Day, my dear brother! I just wanted to say how rich your letter on suffering is. Stunning. I will certainly be printing off a couple copies to share with others. I can only imagine what a healing balm it was for the original recipient. I wish I had time to write more. Maybe later. Peace, joy, and roses to all today!

  3. Michael says:

    Welcome back Dr. Neal! A very fine first post after your respite. In regard to “NOS” – I would like to add that God keeps our humility hidden from us so that we continue to strive for this all important virtue. Mr. Hammer, keep up your many good works.

  4. schwabjohn says:

    What a beautiful post to re-start your blog! Truly inspirational. As always, thanks so much for your awesome reflection on a subject most of us find very difficult to understand.

  5. Victorious Love says:

    So needed dear friend, so needed.

  6. Brother Tom, I offered my first blog post today. I’m obviously brand new to the game, so there are bound to be many imperfections. Honest critique is welcomed and encouraged by those who are interested and visit. With your permission, I would like to take you up on your offer to plug it. Should I send the site info to your nds address? Alternatives for getting info to you? God’s blessing be with you always, my friend. You are an awesome inspiration!

  7. trudymm says:

    Thanks for the post. This is just my take on hearing St. Therese say: “True charity consist in bearing all our neighbors’ defects”. This resounded over and over in my spirit. It was for me to ponder what exactly does “bearing” represent in the spiritual world. The distillation process resulted in the following thoughts: bearing doesn’t mean overlooking, but to look beyond the defects. It is by PRAYING for the neighbor, being FORGIVING, EXTENDING MERCY, and ADMONISHING, as led by the Holy Spirit, that love will bloom for us and for them as those four components are operant. Hearing something about charity, always causes the ears to perk up, because at the end, as St.John of the Cross plainly spells out, we’ll be judged on our love. So to end well, we need to live well, therefore putting into practice what we learn. As neighbors will always surround us, to practice along with grace will make perfect.

    It’s up 2 us 2 B attentive, obedient & da Gospel do heed
    If we want 2B part of da up & comin triumphant New Breed

    | / \

  8. LP says:

    Father Tom

    It is so inspiring to hear your thoughts once more. Thank you.

    As our parish priest is currently on holiday, I had the privilege of leading a Eucharistic Service today. I was especially delighted as St Therese is my confirmation saint. I have done quite a lot of reading about her as well as her Story of a Soul but a book by John Udris – Holy Daring – really opened my eyes to her character. She was not “just” the sweet little flower of Jesus but someone who had great love, humility and a very strong will to do God’s will and teach many of the Rule of Love. I hope you don’t mind if I share three quotes that I used in my reflection during our service.

    Love!…that is what I ask…I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus! Glorious deeds are not for me. I cannot preach the Gospel, shed my blood…what does it matter? My brothers toil instead of me, and I, the little child, I keep quite close to the royal throne, I love for those who fight.

    The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity…

    I have not the courage to force myself to seek beautiful prayers in books; not knowing which to choose I act as children do who cannot read; I say quite simply to the good God what I want to tell Him, and He always understand me.

    Thank you once again. I, along with your many followers, will be grateful for whatever time and inspiration you are able to give us. We all know that your family and many responsibilities must come first but we await the precious gift you give to us – yourself!

    your eager student, LP

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