Happy Feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux! We are delighted to have with us Sister Judy Long, OCD, of the Carmelite Nuns of Baltimore. It seems only fitting to have a Carmelite write about one of her own on this feast day!
“…I wanted to be a religious since the dawn of my reason, and I wanted Carmel as soon as I knew about it. I find all the aspirations of my soul are fulfilled in this Order.” So speaks Thérèse Martin, a young girl of 14, to the Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux and Lisieux, France on Oct. 31, 1887. Her desire will be fulfilled on April 9, 1888, a mere six months later, as she enters the Carmel of Lisieux. Nine years later, she would die of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24. What were the aspirations of her soul? Why was Carmel the place where she felt they would be fulfilled?
The aspirations of her soul can be summed up in one word: love. In Manuscript A of her autobiography Story of A Soul, she tells us, “I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion, giving Him a thousand proofs of my love while it was possible.” Thérèse feels this in the depths of her being. Love is the hallmark of the teaching she will develop later in Carmel, what some call her little way or the way of spiritual childhood. This is a young woman who is madly and deeply in love with Jesus. She relates on the day of her First Communion, “I felt that I was loved and I said: I love you, and I give myself to You forever!…That day it was no longer simply a look but a fusion; there were no longer two, Thérèse had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained…” Therese’s heart and soul were totally open to receive the grace of love that Jesus offered her that day. She would never waver from returning that love even during her dark night of faith a year before her death.
Thérèse knew early in her life that Carmel was the place where her desires could be filled. Her older sister Pauline had told her of her plan to enter Carmel and explained the life she would be living there. Therese realized she wanted that life also. Again from the Story of A Soul, “I felt that Carmel was the desert where God wanted me to go also to hide myself. I felt this with so much force that there wasn’t the least doubt in my heart; it was not the dream of a child led astray but the certitude of a divine call; I wanted to go to Carmel not for Pauline’s sake but for Jesus alone. I was thinking very much about things that words could not express but which left a great peace in my soul.” A life of solitude, silence and prayer coupled with community life would fulfill her desires.
Today Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is one of only three woman doctors of the Church (with one more on the way!), co-patroness of France, patroness of missionaries and beloved by people of many faiths all over the world. She continues to teach us her way of confidence and love. Her shower of roses is still poured on those who ask her intercession.
Thérèse’s vocation of being love in the heart of the church continues to be fulfilled. Is that your vocation too?
* * *
To get in touch with Sister Judy and for more information about the Carmelites, visit the Baltimore Carmel website.