One of my favorite books is the collection of Therese’s poetry, which has only been available in English for about 15 years.
I have even considered studying French, so that I could read her original words, but I have not yet followed up on that idea! However, the Institute of Carmelite Studies, (ICS) translation seems excellent, and I have found much to ponder within its pages.
My favorite poem written by Therese is the 15 stanza, Living on Love. It was also the favorite of her beloved sister Celine (Sister Genevieve of Saint Teresa.) Therese composed it during Forty Hours Devotion before the Most Blessed Sacrament in 1895. She later wrote it down from memory.
To choose one stanza to share is so difficult. Each one breathes Therese: love, simplicity, confidence…
In stanza 12, she wishes to imitate Mary Magdalene, and this stanza also references her deep love for the Holy Face of Jesus. In fact, although she is widely known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her true name in religious life was Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and Carmelites generally still accord her the honor of both of her titles — or “kingdoms” as she called them. But that is a story for another day…..
(from a painting by her sister, Celine Martin)
LIVING ON LOVE
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
Living on Love is imitating Mary,
Bathing your divine feet that she kisses, transported.
With tears, with precious perfume,
She dries them with her long hair…
Then standing up, she shatters the vase,
And in turn she anoints your Sweet Face.
As for me, the perfume with which I anoint your Face
Is my Love!….
Translated by Donald Kinney, OCD
(Therese used rhyming, in the original French)