An Unpetalled Rose….

The summer after I graduated from highschool, I attended a “going away” shower for a pretty girl who had graduated with me.  She was leaving to enter a Carmelite monastery nearby.                                                                                                                  

Earlier that year when Mary had announced her plans, the comment, “What a waste,”  was frequently bantered about.  And on the day of her shower, after we had helped her load the gifts into her car, and she had hugged everyone good-bye, the same comment was repeated as she drove away.

Then there was Dolores Hart.  She sent the “what a waste” crowd into apoplexy when she abandoned her Hollywood career to join a Benedictine monastery — even after starring in two movies with Elvis, no less.  I admit to being intrigued by Dolores myself when she made appearances on EWTN Live a couple of times over the past few years.  She is still beautiful in her 70′s, and is radiant and funny and full of joy– and still a nun.

My friend Mary, and Mother Dolores Hart come to mind whenever I read one of my favorite poems by St. Therese.  It’s titled, The Unpetalled Rose.  How like Therese to want to “squander” her life just for God — simply to give Him pleasure, to be a fresh petal beneath His feet.

But this beautiful poem is not limited to cloistered nuns like Therese and Mary and Dolores.  We can all desire to be “unpetalled.”  We can surrender with joy our plans and dreams into the Heart of God and fling away the script we had hoped our life would follow.

And, petals fall too when we truly seek the last place, rejoicing when others are praised and rewarded while we are overlooked….when we live our lives “with mystery” as Therese states in the last stanza of her poem.  To live in mystery is to be an enigma to the world, to choose what the world does not understand, all the while in secret, unpetalling the rose of our lives.

There are a thousand ways to lose our petals, and allow ourselves to simply be used up for God’s pleasure.  You can tell when you are being unpetalled.  There is a pain within, like a struggle… like dying… self.

But suddenly, you feel lighter.  There is fragrance.  Another petal has dropped…. for  His Joy Alone!

But now let Therese tell us as only she can –

An Unpetalled Rose

  St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Jesus, when I see you held by your Mother,
Leaving her arms
Trying, trembling, your first steps
On our sad earth,
Before you I’d like to unpetal a rose
 In its freshness
So that your little foot might rest ever so softly
On a flower!….

This unpetalled rose is the faithful image,
Divine Child,
Of the heart that wants to sacrifice itself for you unreservedly
at each moment.
Lord, on your altars more than one new rose
Likes to shine.
 It gives itself to you…..but I dream of something else:
 To be unpetalled!….”

The rose in its splendor can adorn your feast,
Lovable Child,
But the unpetalled rose is just flung out
To blow away.
 An unpetalled rose gives itself unaffectedly
To be no more.
Like it, with joy I abandon myself to you,
Little Jesus.

One walks on rose petals with no regrets,
And this debris
Is a simple ornament that one disposes of artlessly,
That I’ve understood.
Jesus, for your love I’ve squandered my life,
My future.
In the eyes of men, a rose forever withered,
I must die!…

For you, I must die, Child, Beauty Supreme,
What a blessed fate!
In being unpetalled, I want to prove to you that I love you,
O my Treasure!…
Under your baby steps, I want to live here below
With mystery,
And I’d like to soften once more on Calvary
Your last steps!….

(all emphases by Therese)

From:  The Poetry of St. Therese of Lisieux

Translated By:  Donald Kinney, OCD

ICS Publications, (Institute of Carmelite Studies) 1995

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28 thoughts on “An Unpetalled Rose….

  1. This is very lovely, Patricia !
    I appreciate your words about the pain of letting the petals fall..and then receiving the joy in that giving up of self for His sake.
    So beautifully explained – thank you!
    And I love the Little Flower’s poems and expressions of love for God – what a treasure she is!

    • She is indeed a treasure! I love her because she found gold in the tiniest things — truly the Doctor of the Little Way Thank you for your kind words. I like to think Therese whsipers in my ear when I am at a loss for words to share her wisdom : ) I’m so happy you stopped by!

  2. Thank you for posting this beautiful poem! I have never seen it before.

    I like this: “You can tell when you are being unpetalled. There is a pain within..” So lovely!

    • Hi Anne. I’ve been over at your blog today. Loved it. And what a yummy dessert!
      And it sounds like you know the feeling of being unpetalled! I love Therese’s metaphor for this giving away of our lives to God. Her book of poetry is worth obtaining. There are so many
      beautiful poems in there, and it includes both the French and English versions. Sadly, I don’t read French. But I’m grateful that the translator didn’t opt to force rhyming, but rather preserved the meaning of
      the poems instead. He offers a nice introduction to each one as well.

    • Anne, good luck at the library tomorrow. But if you don’t find it and would like to purchase it, you can order the book from ICS at this link:
      The Institute of Carmelite Studies is a great place to buy multiple books about Carmelite Saints and Carmelite spirituality, etc. They give a 40 percent off discount for 5 or more books. Some of us combine our orders to make the 5 books and get a discount. Hope you don’t mind my sharing a great place to find Carmelite publications.

      Anyway, Therese’s poetry is wonderful! Good luck tomorrow!

  3. I remember seeing Dolores Hart on EWTN. It was such a beautiful testimony and most definitely not a waste. Her beauty carried into her later years because she seemed to glow with the love of the Lord. I have never seen that poem…So beautiful.
    But I really was challenged because as you said, it’s message ‘is not limited to cloistered nuns like Therese and Mary and Dolores.’…
    “We can surrender with joy our plans and dreams into the Heart of God and fling away the script we had hoped our life would follow.”

    There’s a lot there for meditation isn’t there? Thanks for this beautiful post, Patricia.

    • Hi Caroline! Wasn’t Dolores Hart great on EWTN? She was so funny. I loved her, and her life story is so beautiful that it should be made into a movie. I think she has a neurological disorder now, and that is one reason she made a few appearances on EWTN — to raise awareness, I believe. Do you remember how she was engaged when she ran away to the monastery? And her fiance never married, but remained her friend as well as a friend of all at the monastery. Oh, where are the movie producers when you need them! I would go see this movie!

      I am actually old enough to remember her from the movies, and I own the movie about St. Francis in which she played Clare. So lovely! Father Brian Mullady(sp?) has often spoken of her as “the nun who kissed Elvis.” He’s so funny. So glad you caught the EWTN appearance! What a wonderful love story. She certainly chose the best ending! : )

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, much to meditate upon, and always so much easier to write and think about than to put into practice! But He is so worth it! Blessings to you!

      • She was amazing..and yes, I remember the story she told about her fiance and how they remained friends.. I would love to see more movies made about life stories like hers from our times..Fr Brian has such a joyful face he makes me smile just looking at him ..: )
        Isn’t she the superior of her house ? Can you imagine that?
        Blessings and +PAX

        • Caroline, you too? I can’t believe so many people in one “conversation” have seen that long ago movie! Just for fun, I looked it up on Amazon last night, and it was rated just under 5 stars. Guess there are lots of other people out there who like to remember the good old days : ) And they were!

          Too bad I don’t know any movie producers (do you?) Maybe Raymond Arroyo needs to work on this. I think Mother Dolores was on The World Over as well. I think you are right about her being the superior. I wish I lived near enough to visit Regina Laudis. My friend, on a vocation quest, actually got to spend about a week there (in the guest house) a few years ago. I was so jealous!

          Yes, Father Brian is wonderful. He reminds me of a mischievous little boy : ) He gives retreats often in Birmingham, up where the Sister Servants Order is. I’d love to go sometime.

          Blessings to you, Caroline.

  4. My mother gave me a book of St. Therese’s poetry a few years ago as a Mother’s Day gift. I think she may have supplanted Emily Dickinson as my favorite poet.

    I don’t personally know anyone who entered a monastery. My secret longing for Rebecca is that she will one day make this decision, but it’s not in my hands.

    I often think with fondness of the scene in “The Trouble with Angels” when Reverent Mother (Rosalind Russell) reveals that she gave up a career as a designer in an exclusive French house of couture. When the astounded student asks her how she could have given it all up to become a nun, she answers: “I found something better.” And I think of my other favorite celluloid nun, Ingrid Bergman in “The Bells of St. Mary’s”. She explains to little Patsy that you don’t become a nun to run away from something, you become a nun because you found something.”

    How blessed we are to have found not something, but Someone, and to have Therese to lead us to Him.

    • Oh Joyce! So you really know “The Trouble with Angels”? Gee, I thought I was the only one! I love that movie, and own it on VHS and DVD. I became a fan in my 30′s. I have probably seen it at least ten times, and am not done yet. Can’t believe you know about it too! (I think I watch because I love to live vicariously through Hayley Mills’ character!) I also love “The Nun’s Story” — except for the end.

      So great that your mom gave you a book of Therese’s poetry. My absolute favorite is Living on Love. Yes, we are so blessed and graced to have Therese’s example and her amazing wisdom. I loved the gospel today about the greatest in Heaven being little children. Therese knew that so well. Today was so funny. Everytime I wanted to be annoyed by something, I had to remember that I was being “unpetalled.”
      I finally told Jesus, “Okay, You win. I know i can’t write about it if I’m not going to try to live it.” What a Gracious God we have!

      I will add Rebecca to my prayer list. How wonderful it would be if Jesus called her to be His little spouse!
      Thank you for your prayers for my son. Please continue to remember him. God bless!

      • Oh my gosh. ‘The Trouble with Angels…’ I saw it for the first time in years a few months ago…What great memories it brought back. I know ‘they’ say you shouldn’t say ”those were the days…’ but what do they know?
        They were..: )

    • Anne, you too? Wish we could get together with Joyce and have a screening at my house. : ) I think I love it because it reminds me of my Catholic school days. Did you see Caroline’s post about the dear nuns who taught so many of us?

      Hmm, MEME. I actually googled it! I’ve come across them on other blogs, but this will be my first one. I hope the time constraint isn’t too tight, as I seem to have sprained my wrist, and have to take off the brace to type! Meanwhile, I’m ruminating about what need I might best serve as Patron. I can hear all my friends screaming “migraine headaches.” They know me as the queen of migraines! : ) But I have a few other ideas. Will try to tackle this tomorrow!

  5. Dear Littlesoul2, I am stopping by today from Imprisoned in my bones. I am truly touched by yo9ur post today. St. Therese is my patron saint, so you can see why. God bless you. love your writings.

    • Thank you Gardenia, and I’m so happy you stopped by. I visited your blog and see that you have your own Little Flower : ) My son is adopted too. He is quite grown up now though at age 32 years, not months! I so wish he were just a little boy again. Reading some of your blog, I could really identify with your absolute joy over finally becoming a mom. I’m so happy for you and your husband! I write about St. Therese often, so I hope you will visit again! God bless you too! Patricia

  6. This is amazingly beautiful! Thanks for the link – this is a book I would really love to read. Not only do I love poetry, St. Therese is one of my favorite saints and I often ask her intercession. Her writing inspires me and I love her “little way” !

    • Hi Mary. I think you will love the book. It contains so many more beautiful poems. There is a breathtaking one called, Living on Love — which is basically what Therese did. Yes, her little way gives us all hope that we too can reach true sanctity. I love the hiddeness of it as well — sort of a treasure for God’s eyes alone. Let me know how you like the book. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Patricia
    Ahhh! I have the “Nun’s Story” and “The Trouble With Angels” AND “The Bells of St Mary’s” on DVD. I also have quite a few DVD’s on Therese, one of the best being “Echo of the Heart of God”. If you haven’t seen it, please do, you will love it. There is also a French film about her simply called “Therese” and I think the director was Alain Cavaliere. It was done in the 80′s and there are a few parts I wish he hadn’t taken license with, but it’s still very interesting and beautifully filmed.

    One day, I would like to visit Regina Laudis and do a retreat there, one where I could help the nuns with their farm work and maybe meet Mother Dolores Hart in person. That would be a real treat. I would probably think I’d died and gone to Benedictine Heaven.

    Of course I am remembering your son. I have a list of sons I’m praying for, plus my oldest daughter, who drifts in and out. She’s the antithesis of Rebecca in many ways.

    Take care

    • Joyce, if we lived in the same town, I think we’d be running into each other everywhere! I did see the French movie of Therese, and liked it very much, except for the liberties the director took which you mentioned. I really thought the actress who played Therese captured her so well, which made me all the more disappointed in the more recent Leonardo defillipes film which I so wanted to love. I thought the casting was all wrong for starters. I only saw it once. (To his credit, defillipes did a much better job with John of the Cross.)

      I have a friend who was once in Carmel with me and tbought she had a late vocation. She visited several contemplative Orders, and actually got to spend a few days at Regina Laudis. She fell in love with it. Her vocation didn’t work out, but she has lots of wonderful memories of her monastery experiences.

      I do have Echo of the Heart of God. Do you have This House of Brede? Are we wannabe nuns?? : ) Years ago when my husband and I were young and poor, this life insurance guy kept giving us the hard sell to buy a whole life policy. I finally told him that if anything happened to my husband, I was going into the convent and wouldn’t need any money! (I was half-serious.) He didn’t know what to say after that!

      Thank you so much for your prayers for Christopher. I didn’t realize you had an older daughter. I will add her to my prayer list.

      This was fun! God bless you Joyce. I sprained my wrist and have to “hunt and peck,” so may be posting a few reruns. Hope your new job is going well!


  8. Thank you so much for the beautiful post and poem. I love St. Therese’ and had never read this poem before. I would be ever so glad if my daughter wanted to become a nun. I pray that if any of my children have a call to a religious vocation that they will hear and respond to that call.

    • Dana, thank you for stopping by. All of Therese’s poems are in a book of poetry which was released in 1995. You can find it at any of the booksellers online. I know what you mean about being delighted if your children
      would have religious vocations. Right after my son was baptized, I brought him to the statue of Our Lady in our parish church, and consecrated him to her. I always hoped he would be a priest. But, he doesn’t even go to Mass anymore! Vocations are a mystery. I have beautiful Catholic friends with large families, and yet, no vocations. I’ll say a prayer for your children, that perhaps God may call one or all of them! One of the members of my Carmelite community has a brother who is a bishop, a husband who is a deacon, and both of her sons are priests! Wish I knew her secret : ) God bless you, Dana.

  9. Yes Patricia I found the poetry book yesterday and have begun to read it and love it!!! Thanks so much! I also love “In This House of Brede.” It’s a great book! I’ll keep you in my prayers for speedy healing of your wrist! Take your time about the MEME-it’s not required, just fun to think and write about. Basically, a MEME is a traveling blog post idea and the rules for each are always outlined by the one who tags you. Play along if you want but don’t worry if you can’t.

    • Anne, that’s wonderful that you found it! Is ICS the publisher?

      Thanks so much for your prayers. The doctor said it was tendonitis, and that I need to rest my wrist for about a week. Actually, it’s better today- even before I took the huge NSAID pill she prescribed. Wearing the splint/brace gadget really helps. I’m still planning on trying the MEME. BTW, thanks for the explanation! : )

      I was just thinking of all the comments received on this particular post, certainly many more than I have ever before received. People just love Therese. She touches our hearts in an amazing way. In the midst of all her darkness and trial of faith at the end of her life, she would often say surprising things which seemed to reveal that somewhere within she had a hint of her future glory. One thing she said was, “I know full well that everyone will love me.” Yes, Therese, we love you!

      Let me know your favortie Therese poem, Anne. Have a lovely weekend!

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