Will you go to Purgatory?

Today is All Souls’ Day, when we remember our beloved dead whom we entrust to the Mercy of God.  The whole month of November is especially dedicated to praying for these departed souls.  We must never forget to pray for them, and ask God to hasten their entrance into His Presence, should they be detained in Purgatory.

But All Souls’ Day is also a time when I love to re-read the amazing thoughts of St. Therese on Purgatory.  

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Therese was convinced that she would not go to Purgatory, and she even taught her novices to embrace the same hope (to the horror of her superiors) . Her belief was certainly not borne out of any presumption upon the Mercy of God, or based in any worthiness of her own. Rather, like everything else, Therese saw Purgatory through the lens of God’s Love.

She reasoned that His Love was a Fire which could purify instantly and completely: You can prepare me to appear before you in an instant. (From her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love)

Therese believed that God would gladly accept anyone who truly trusts in Him, and embraces their littleness…souls with “empty hands” who in all humility depend entirely on the Love and Mercy of God. It follows that such souls, while not necessarily possessing the perfection of the Saints, would nevertheless live their lives trying to love and serve God as best they could, humbly asking Him to clothe them in His Own Sanctity.

And if she was wrong…well, Therese had a charming “backup plan”.  She would spend her Purgatory praising God, strolling through the flames singing the Canticle of Praise from Daniel 3: 57-88. But, her hope remained in her Beloved, and she fervently prayed:  May my soul, without delay, leap into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love. 

And what about the rest of us poor mortals, not quite burning with the fire and holiness of Therese? Well, we can hope too. And, we can remember that God takes into account the suffering we have endured on earth. And, as Therese would say:  Can we ever hope for too much from God’s Goodness?

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“God’s Mercy is Greater!” THE TEACHING OF ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX ON PURGATORY

  by Father Dr.Hubert van Dijk, ORC¹


Doctor of the Church for the third millennium

St Therese 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 Scientia, published when St Therese 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 bas been far from exhausted. As the popes repeatedly express: Therese 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 Therese’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. Therese 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”8 (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. Therese has to say. Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even  for her to get to heaven right away.Shewondered “If I fail even in: the smallest things, “may I still hope to get straight to heaven?” St Therese, 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. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie  Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven   years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese 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 Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St.  Therese 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. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: “O my   Mother, my Sr. M Febronia 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. Therese’s “doctrine” in 7 key words

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.

2. 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: “1 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.

3. Purgatory is a waste of time.

   This is what St. Therese says, “I know that of myself I would not merit even     to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have 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. Therese is right: at the moment of our death we already have our    place in Heaven. Afterwards, there is no growing in grace anymore. Whoever does  not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

4.   We need a more positive image of God.

We already know that St. Therese 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 goesback to heresies like Jansenism. Quietism, or Calvinism.     14

5. 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

6. 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 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. Therese 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 immediately away 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. Therese 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, as St. Therese 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

7. St. Therese’s teaching, a great message for the third millennium

One can rightfully say that Therese 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. Therese 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 YourLOVE!”24Yes, 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. Therese 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. Febronia and her suffering in Purgatory; her silent message from the next world should move us. “It seemed,” says Therese, “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. Febronia 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 Therese 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 Dr.   Hubert van Dijk, ORC

 

Footnotes:

1. I would like to enlighten souls-as did the   Prophets and the Doctors.’St Thereseof Lisieux. Story of a   Soul. ICS. Washington     DC, 1996, Ms B, 2v, pg. 192. 2. St. Therese of Lisieux.  Story of a SOUL, ICS, Washington DC, 1996, Ms A, 49r. Jig. 105. 3. Divini Amoris, I.c., Nr. 7.4. Philippe de la Trinite,  La Doctrine de Sainte Therese sur Ie Purgatoire. Editions du Parvis, CH-1648 Hauteville/Suisse 1992,     pg. 16. . 5. Annales de Sainte Therese, Lisieux. Nr. 610, Febr. 1982. Translated   from the German. 6. Last Conversations,   ICS. Washington DC. 1971, pg 273.. 7. La Doctrine, l.c. pg 16. Translated from the German.   8. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, IT. ch. XX. 9. Ferdinand Holbőck.  Das Fegefeuer, Salzburg 1977, page 94f. Translated from the German. 10.  La Doctrine, I.c.page 22f. Translated from the German.   11. Lucien Regnault, La Pensee de Ste. Therese de 1’Enfant Jesus sur Ie Purgatoire in Annales de Sainte Therese,   1986, Suppl. Nr     101, pages 21-29, quote on page 26. Translated from the German. 12. Annales de Sainte Therese, Nr. 610. Feb. 1983, page 5. Translated 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. 30, art. 1.   Translated from the German. 16. P. Philipon. Vie Spirituelle, Jan./Feb. 1945, pages 21-23; 16-17. Translated from the German. 17. La Doctrine, l.c. page 13. Translated from the German. 18. St. Therese of Lisieux, Letters St. Therese of Lisieux, ICS, Washington DC, 1913, Vol. II, pg 998, LT 197. 19. Pious Recreations, RP 6, 9v, translated from the German.   20. Last Conversations. pg. 89. CJ, 11.7.6   21. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux. Vol. II, pg. 1093, LT 226.   22. La Pensee, l.c., pg. 28. Translated from the German.   23. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, pg. 999, LT 197.   24. Story of a Soul, pg. 200. Ms B, 5v.

(1) Webmaster’s Note: This article, in German, appears in the December 2001, and the January 2002 issue of “Der Fels” (A German Catholic Publication) – see www.der-fels.de/2001/12-2001.pdf  and www.der-fels.de/2002/01-2002.pdf respectively. It was translated into English by Père (Father) de la Trinité, ocd. Fr. Van Dijk, confirmed the authenticity of his writing – which I had requested because it appears that our website is the only place where this article appears in English. We have checked the references noted in the Footnotes, they all check out. Fr. Van Dijk hopes that we can make his paper known to the world. We shall try to do that. / Fred Schaeffer, SFO, webmaster.                            top

St Therese…victim of Love

Celebrating the Feast of my beloved St. Therese with a post from the archives.  May she pray for each of us “to love God as He has never been loved before.”

I pray that many who read these posts on Therese may experience God’s call to become little victims of His Merciful Love.

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During Holy Mass on Trinity Sunday in 1895, twenty-two year old Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face was given a most remarkable insight into the Merciful Heart of God.

Therese was so overwhelmed by this new inspiration of the Holy Spirit that she immediately sought out the Prioress, her sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus), who later described Therese as appearing “aglow with excitement.”

What transpired between God and Therese on that Trinity Sunday can best be described in her own words, written six months later and recorded in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul:

..I was enabled to understand more clearly than ever before how Jesus longs to be loved. I was thinking of those souls who offer themselves as victims to the Justice of God, so that, by drawing it down on themselves, they turn aside the punishment due to sinners. I thought this a noble and generous offer, but I was a long way from feeling that I should make it myself.

From the depths of my heart, I cried, “O my Divine Master, must it be only Your Justice which has its victims? Hasn’t Your Merciful Love need of them too? It is everywhere rejected and ignored. Those on whom You long to lavish It seek a wretched, fleeting happiness in other creatures instead of flinging themselves into Your arms and welcoming the flames of Your Divine Love.

Must Your rejected Love stay shut up in Your Heart? It seems to me that if You found souls offering themselves as sacrificial victims of Your Love, You would consume them speedily and would rejoice to unloose those torrents of infinite tenderness You hold within Yourself. If Your Justice must spend itself, though It is concerned only with the earth, how much more must Your Merciful Love long to inflame souls, since, “Thy Mercy reaches even to the Heavens..”

O Jesus, let me be Your eager victim and consume Your little sacrifice in the Fire of Divine Love.

Therese motioned for her sister Celine (Sister Genevieve of St. Teresa) to follow her as she went to find Mother Agnes. Celine described Therese as too overcome with emotion to speak. When at last she had located the prioress, Therese was able to breathlessly explain that she wished to offer herself as “a victim of holocaust to the Merciful Love of God.”

For Therese, her discovery was no passing whim or pious dream. Nor was it to be merely a lovely prayer or an unattainable desire.

To this pure and passionate soul, who had never wished for anything but His Happiness, God revealed that He desired a new kind of victim — one who would place no limits on the Love in which He burned to immerse her.

Therese knew that the greatest Joy of God is to give Himself away…to be a fountain of Mercy and Love to all of His children.

Years before, she had noticed in a picture of Jesus Crucified that His Precious Blood was falling to the ground with no one to receive it. She determined then that she would remain at the foot of His Cross to receive His Blood, and through her love, prayers and sacrifices, she would distribute this Blood to sinners so in need of it.

Now she beheld her God with His Love “locked up” in His Heart, with so few willing to notice or care. But her Beloved had revealed to His little spouse a remedy.

No, she would not be a victim of Divine Justice. She would instead become a victim of Merciful Love, allowing those rejected torrents of Infinite Love to fall upon her, to consume her, and in the end, she wished to “die of love.”

As I will share in the next post, Therese had already reached the heights of sanctity in 1895, but she did not hesitate to invite the novices in her care to also make the same Offering….and at the end of one of the three manuscripts which compose her autobiography, she exclaims to Jesus: I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!! (sic)

And that includes you, and me…

Tuesday adoration….why am I here?

ChildofChrist

Why did God create you?  Do you ever think about that?  I do.

Many years ago while on retreat, I wrote across the top of the first page of my journal:  Dear God, what is my purpose in life?  Who am I supposed to be?

I prayed all weekend for an answer, bringing my question continually before the Lord.  But I never heard an answer…and I was somewhat disappointed.

But, now years later, I realize that I didn’t hear the answer because I was listening for the wrong kind of answer.  I wanted something specific and concrete.  I wanted to leave my retreat with a plan…maybe even a list which I could check off.  Here is what God has sent me to do.  Here is how I will make a difference in the world.   I wanted a mission.

But as the years passed, and life moved on with its sorrows and its joys, I began to hear the answer I sought.  It is always the same, and it takes root deeper and deeper in my heart, and the joy it imparts is a reassuring certainty.

Today, I heard a young woman describe her very first visit to the Eucharistic Adoration chapel in her parish.

She went in, not knowing what to expect.  And to her amazement, she saw a type of vision…one which arose within her imagination.  She saw a large tree and beneath it she was seated with Jesus.  To her great surprise, Jesus carved His initials and hers in the tree, and then He drew a heart around it.

He looked at her so tenderly and told her, “You could never understand how very much I love you.  Fall in love with Me.  I so much want you to fall in love with Me.”

Then she went on to say that God  always knows just what we need to hear, and the way we need to hear it.

And, I understood.  So many times in the adoration chapel, I have had a similar “vision,” only in mine, I am a little girl, all dressed up with ribbons in her hair, and I am snuggled in the arms of Jesus, or sometimes standing on his lap, looking into His eyes, or hugging His neck so tight.  And….I am so very peaceful, both in the scene, and as I quietly sit there being loved.

Getting out of the car, after hearing the young woman’s encounter with Jesus, I looked up at the blue sky and the trees in their tender spring leaves.  I listened to the bird songs of some cardinals nearby.  I gazed at all of this and with wide-eyed wonder, marveled that the God Who had created it all, and Who sustains a world teeming with life and beauty, would so love me, and you….would so love us above all of His material creation combined.  Yet, I know that He does…because He told us so.

This is the answer I have been hearing for so long…in the quiet of the adoration chapel, in the writings of the mystics, in the longing of my heart which nothing on earth can fill.  The answer is the echo in the restlessness of my soul which yearns to be totally accepted, completely understood, unconditionally loved.  The answer is in my quest to rest in ravishing Beauty which will never fade, never end.

Yes, God answered my question on that retreat so long ago, but His answer was too wonderful, too beautiful, too perfect for me to hear at the time.  But He has repeated it over and over until at last I began to listen:

I created you so that I could love you.  And, I made you in My Own Image and Likeness so that your soul would be so beautiful in its resemblance of Me, that I would thirst for you to love Me in return.

It is really that simple.  We were created for Love. God is always loving us, always giving Himself to us, never turning His gaze from His beloved.  And we, at every moment, can be loving Him in return, whether in thought or deed or absence of malice.

And we can grow, moment by moment, in that love for Him…the more we forgive, the more we give, the more we  forget ourselves….always inviting Him to refine His Image more visibly within our souls.

O Jesus, what a glorious “mission!”  What a sublime purpose for my life….to be Your Heart’s desire!   Teach me to surrender myself to Your Love….and grant that I may love You in return by doing all that I can to imitate You.  Amen.

 “Jesus make me resemble You…”  prayed St. Therese.

“For in reflecting upon it carefully, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight.  So then, what do you think that abode will be like where a King so powerful, so wise, so pure, so full of all good things takes His delight?  I don’t find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity.  Indeed, out intellects, however keen, can hardly comprehend it, just as they cannot comprehend God; but He Himself says that He created us in His own image and likeness.”

The Interior Castle, Study Edition: pp. 33-34, nos. 83-84.
St. Teresa of Avila
ICS Publications
Washington, DC

(a personal favorite from the archives, as we await Corpus Christi Sunday)

Therese invites you to Love….

 I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!! (sic)

In my previous post, Will you be a victim…of Love, I shared the account of how Therese had been seized with the desire to offer herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.

Therese saw her Offering as a means to relieve the suffering of God Whose Love must remain pent up within His Heart, because It is rejected and refused by so many.. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, she resolved to offer herself to be “consumed unceasingly” by this torrent of Love. Her dream was to become a true “holocaust” of Divine Love, being so burned up within these Flames, that she would eventually become “a martyr to Your Love, O my God!”

But Therese knew immediately that this revelation from the Most Tender Heart of God was not given for herself alone. Only moments after having received the inspiration during Mass on Trinity Sunday, 1895, she shared the invitation with two of her blood sisters, Celine (Sister Genevieve of St. Teresa),  and Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus), who were nuns in the same monastery. In fact, Pauline was then serving as prioress.

Later, Therese invited the novices in her care to make the Offering as well. She also tracked down her other blood sister, Marie, (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) while she was working in the garden one day. Marie at first protested, thinking that to make such an Offering would be to invite additional suffering and punishment upon herself.

But Therese gently explained that was not the case: I do understand what you are saying, but to offer oneself to love is an entirely different thing to offering oneself to His Justice. One does not suffer more. It is a matter only of loving God more for those who do not love Him.

As in most things, Therese was victorious, and Marie agreed to also become a victim of Merciful Love.

Hence, Therese offers to each of us the same invitation….to love God for those who refuse to love Him… to remain beneath His Heart, and allow ourselves to be immersed in the waves of Tenderness pouring forth from that Divine Heart, so grateful for release. For to love God is most of all about allowing Him to love us.

“…..for God loves to be love, and love is His Ecstasy, His Life in the Trinity, His Mystery, and the Secret of His gratuitous creation, of redemption and of heaven.”  (from With Empty Hands, the message of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Conrad De Meester)

But now, let us return to June 9, 1895. And afterward, we shall see what God’s response to Therese’s Offering was…

Therese, accompanied by Celine, had explained to the prioress, that she wished to offer herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.  Mother Agnes, having such respect for the holiness of her little sister, immediately gave her consent.

Therese then set herself to the task of composing what truly must be one of the most beautiful prayers ever written by a Saint. It seems she wished to leave out nothing from her Offering, and so she proceeds to ask for all that Love can give.

Two days later, on June 11, Therese and her sister Celine, knelt before the statue of the Virgin of the Smile, and Therese read the Prayer of Offering that she had composed.

She neither asked for nor expected any sign from God in response to her offering.  She always sought the little, simple and hidden way in her life….the way of little souls.  Unlike her Holy Founders, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross, lofty mystical experiences were not part of Therese’s life.  In fact, almost her entire nine years in Carmel were spent in a state of spiritual dryness.

However, on Friday, June 14, while alone in the chapel making the Way of the Cross, Therese suddenly found herself seized with a Love for God which burned so intensely that she thought she would die. I was on fire with love, and I felt that one moment, one second more, and I would not have been able to bear this burning without dying.

Her Divine Spouse had deigned to manifest to His little victim that He was indeed pleased with her Offering to His Merciful Love.

Theresian scholars describe this experience as the consummation of the Mystical Marriage or Transforming Union, the final stage of the spiritual journey and the deepest union with God one can experience this side of Heaven.

As for Therese, she said only that she believed God had confirmed His acceptance of her Offering.  Out of obedience, she disclosed the mystical experience to her prioress, but then said no more about it.

As for her Offering, she carried the written copy over her heart for the rest of her life, and she repeated the words often, even on her death-bed.

Her great dream had been to die of love for God, and one can hardly doubt that she did.

After months of unbearable suffering from the ravages of tuberculosis, when it seemed her death agony would drag on for hours, she picked up her crucifix and gazed at it tenderly, uttering with her last breath:

Oh, I love Him!  My God, I love Thee!

(Tomorrow I will post  the Prayer Therese wrote to offer herself as a victim of Holocaust to the Merciful Love of God.  Those who feel called are invited to follow her in this little way of LOVE).

An Unpetalled Rose….

(I have been on a bit of a blog break, falling in love with my precious granddaughter….now ten weeks old).   Meanwhile, here is a favorite post of mine from 2011.

 

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…..to 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

By
  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

(first posted August 9, 2011)

Rescuing Lent……

THANK YOU to everyone who so kindly expressed thoughtful concern and promises of prayer upon the sudden illness and death of my sister. I will be forever grateful for your goodness and generosity. I hope to respond to each comment individually over the next day or two.

Below is a post about one of my “favorite” Lenten seasons. Each one is different, as you know. This one was shared with a friend. I call it my Lent of “flowers.”

How is your Lent going?  Are you keeping all of those penances and promises?

As I see the mid-point of Lent fast approaching, I realize that I have not been as faithful and consistent as I had hoped, with all of my Lenten resolutions.  In fact, I can only remember one Lent when I felt I made it to the finish line, keeping all of my promises.

I call it my Lenten Springtime, or the Lent of flowers.

About 15 years ago, I met someone who had recently returned to the Church after an absence of over 30 years.  He was very excited and on fire with his re-found faith, but was a bit intimidated by Lent, and had no idea what he might do for penance.  He wanted to choose something very difficult…almost to punish himself, it seemed, for his years away from the Lord.

So, I suggested that together, we offer an extra 1000 prayers and/or sacrifices to Jesus throughout the 40 days of Lent.  That meant a total of 25 offerings each day between us.  He was delighted with the idea of one thousand sacrifices, and we decided to express each offering by a flower of our own choosing.

Making an extra holy hour for example, could be a beautiful long-stemmed red rose, or a magnificent white orchid, while saying an extra decade of the rosary might earn a sunny yellow daffodil.

My friend and I soon became ingenious at collecting our daily tally…..we left food unsalted,went thirsty for an hour, took cool baths/showers, etc.  We scored gorgeous roses with sacrifices like holding our tongue when treated unjustly, or going out of our way to be nice to someone we didn’t especially like.

We thought up so many penances as well as good deeds to accomplish, that I’m quite sure our guardian angels must have gotten in on the fun.

Each night, we exchanged emails recording that day’s bounty of flowers.  As Easter approached, we were filled with joy, seeing that our goal was in sight.  We worked extra hard during Holy Week to be sure that we would not fall short at the last moment.

When Easter morning finally arrived, we printed out our very long list of well over one thousand flowers of all kinds, colors and fragrances.  With great joy and excitement, I received Jesus in Holy Communion, and presented to Him this lovely spiritual bouquet.

It was a simple Lent, a joyful Lent, a Lent shared with a friend recently renewed in his faith.  Yet, the prayers, the sacrifices and penances had all cost  us….but we hadn’t felt it so much, since our focus was on gathering the most beautiful flowers for Jesus.

Like every season of life, each Lent is different.  But that Lent seemed just about perfect to me.  In a way, it reminds me of Therese who as a little girl, liked to count her sacrifices on a string of beads.

Sometimes when attempting all of those grown-up, demanding and challenging Lenten practices seems to weigh us down, burden and discourage us, it might be a nudge from the Lord to return to the simple things of a child….like gathering flowers.

So if your Lent is in need of a bit of “rescuing,” there is still plenty of time to assemble a truly gorgeous bouquet.

But you can be sure that even if you can only manage a bunch of wildflowers, He Who numbers the very hairs of your head will receive them with the greatest Joy!  And one day in Heaven, you will see those very flowers, eternally fresh, fragrant and beautiful at the feet of Jesus.

(First published March 12, 2012)

For all “little souls”…

theresenovice

O Eternal Word, my Saviour, You are the Eagle I love and the One who fascinates me.  You swept down to this land of exile and suffered and died so that You could bear away every soul and plunge them into the heart of the Blessed Trinity, that inextinguishable furnace of love.  You re-entered the splendours of heaven, yet stayed in our vale of tears hidden under the appearance of a white Host so that You can feed me with Your own substance.  O Jesus, do not be angry if I tell You that Your love is a mad love…and how can You expect my heart when confronted with this folly, not to soar up to You?  How can there be any limit to my trust?

I know that for You the Saints have also been foolish.  Because they were eagles they have done great deeds.  I am too small to do anything great, and so my folly is to hope that Your love will accept me as its victim; my folly is to rely on the angels and the Saints so that I may fly to You, my adored Eagle, with Your own wings.  For as long as You wish, I will stay with my eyes on You.  I want to be fascinated by Your gaze.  I want to be the prey of Your love.  I hope that one day You will swoop down on me, carry me off to the furnace of love, and plunge me into its burning depths so that I can be its ecstatic victim for all eternity.

O Jesus, if only I could tell all little souls of Your immeasurable condescension.  I feel that if You found a soul feebler than mine–even though that’s impossible–You would delight in heaping even greater favours on it if it abandoned itself with supreme confidence to Your infinite mercy.

But why do I want to tell the secrets of your love, my Beloved?  You alone have taught me them and surely You can reveal them to others.  I know You can and I implore You to:  I beseech You to cast Your divine glance upon a vast number of little souls.  I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!!

(Excerpt from St. Therese’s letter to her older sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, OCD., The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, translated by John Beevers, Image Books, 1957)

St. Therese’s Act of Oblation to Merciful Love…

As I have written about in my two previous posts, God entrusted to St. Therese a most beautiful and astonishing revelation. It was truly a Divine response of Infinite Goodness to her deepest longing “…to love You as You have never been loved before.”

Therese, flushed with joy on Trinity Sunday, 1895, was inspired by her Beloved to offer herself as a victim to Merciful Love. No longer would God’s rejected Love have to remain “…locked up in Your Heart.” Therese would offer her entire being to receive these Torrents of Divine Love. She even hoped that they would consume her so that she would “…become a martyr to Your Love…”

But Therese knew that so great an invitation, springing from the depths of Infinite Tenderness, was not meant for her alone. She convinced several of the other nuns in her monastery to also make this Act of Oblation. And, she invites us too!

But lest anyone feel they are unworthy to make such an offering, please know that you are then the most worthy. I quote Therese: Is the choice of me worthy of Love? Yes, for in order that Love should be fully satisfied, it needs to stoop down, to stoop down to Nothingness and to transform this Nothingness into FIRE.

So, the least and littlest and the poorest souls are those which allow God’s Love to soar to the heights in manifesting Its Greatness and Magnanimity.

So, little souls, let us not be afraid. Therese thought of us long ago: I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!!

ACT OF OBLATION TO MERCIFUL LOVE

J.M.J.T.

Offering of myself as a Victim of Holocaust to God’s Merciful Love

O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You Loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!

Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.

I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the days of His mortal life: “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give it to you!” I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful? Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.

I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.

I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the sceptre of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion.

After earth’s Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.

In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!

May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.

I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!

Marie, Francoise, Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, unworthy Carmelite religious.
This 9th day of June, Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, In the year of grace, 1895.

(All emphases by St. Therese)

Reproduced with permission from Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright 1975 by the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications.

What is a victim of Love?

I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!! (sic)

In my previous post, You are invited by St. Therese, I shared the account of how Therese had been seized with the desire to offer herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.

Therese saw her Offering as a means to relieve the suffering of God Whose Love must remain pent up within His Heart, because It is rejected and refused by so many.. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, she resolved to offer herself to be “consumed unceasingly” by this torrent of Love. Her dream was to become a true “holocaust” of Divine Love, being so burned up within these Flames, that she would eventually become “a martyr to Your Love, O my God!”

But Therese knew immediately that this revelation from the Most Tender Heart of God was not given for herself alone. Only moments after having received the inspiration during Mass on Trinity Sunday, 1895, she shared the invitation with two of her blood sisters, Celine (Sister Genevieve of St. Teresa),  and Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus), who were nuns in the same monastery. In fact, Pauline was then serving as prioress.

Later, Therese invited the novices in her care to make the Offering as well. She also tracked down her other blood sister, Marie, (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) while she was working in the garden one day. Marie at first protested, thinking that to make such an Offering would be to invite additional suffering and punishment upon herself.

But Therese gently explained that was not the case: I do understand what you are saying, but to offer oneself to love is an entirely different thing to offering oneself to His Justice. One does not suffer more. It is a matter only of loving God more for those who do not love Him.

As in most things, Therese was victorious, and Marie agreed to also become a victim of Merciful Love.

Hence, Therese offers to each of us the same invitation….to love God for those who refuse to love Him… to remain beneath His Heart, and allow ourselves to be immersed in the waves of Tenderness pouring forth from that Divine Heart, so grateful for release. For to love God is most of all about allowing Him to love us.

“…..for God loves to be love, and love is His Ecstasy, His Life in the Trinity, His Mystery, and the Secret of His gratuitous creation, of redemption and of heaven.”  (from With Empty Hands, the message of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Conrad De Meester)

But now, let us return to June 9, 1895. And afterward, we shall see what God’s response to Therese’s Offering was…

Therese, accompanied by Celine, had explained to the prioress, that she wished to offer herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.  Mother Agnes, having such respect for the holiness of her little sister, immediately gave her consent.

Therese then set herself to the task of composing what truly must be one of the most beautiful prayers ever written by a Saint. It seems she wished to leave out nothing from her Offering, and so she proceeds to ask for all that Love can give.

Two days later, on June 11, Therese and her sister Celine, knelt before the statue of the Virgin of the Smile, and Therese read the Prayer of Offering that she had composed.

She neither asked for nor expected any sign from God in response to her offering.  She always sought the little, simple and hidden way in her life….the way of little souls.  Unlike her Holy Founders, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross, lofty mystical experiences were not part of Therese’s life.  In fact, almost her entire nine years in Carmel were spent in a state of spiritual dryness.

However, on Friday, June 14, while alone in the chapel making the Way of the Cross, Therese suddenly found herself seized with a Love for God which burned so intensely that she thought she would die. I was on fire with love, and I felt that one moment, one second more, and I would not have been able to bear this burning without dying.

Her Divine Spouse had deigned to manifest to His little victim that He was indeed pleased with her Offering to His Merciful Love.

Theresian scholars describe this experience as the consummation of the Mystical Marriage or Transforming Union, the final stage of the spiritual journey and the deepest union with God one can experience this side of Heaven.

As for Therese, she said only that she believed God had confirmed His acceptance of her Offering.  Out of obedience, she disclosed the mystical experience to her prioress, but then said no more about it.

As for her Offering, she carried the written copy over her heart for the rest of her life, and she repeated the words often, even on her death-bed.

Her great dream had been to die of love for God, and one can hardly doubt that she did.

After months of unbearable suffering from the ravages of tuberculosis, when it seemed her death agony would drag on for hours, she picked up her crucifix and gazed at it tenderly, uttering with her last breath:

Oh, I love Him!  My God, I love Thee!

(Next week, I will post the text of Therese’s Offering to Merciful Love….perhaps you too will choose to join her “multitude of little victims worthy of Your Love!!!”)

Souls are more different than faces…

From the archives: There is no one else like you.

St. Therese had a saying, “Souls are more different than faces.”

I heard something similar growing up in Catholic school, under the wise and devoted instruction of glowing nuns in flowing habits who appeared to have vast insights into the mysteries of God.  I listened intently, but found it difficult to believe that each of the billions of people God had created was absolutely unique and unrepeatable.  But the nuns said it was true.

My friends and I seemed pretty similar as far as I could tell.  We might have looked different, but I didn’t see how our souls could be all that unique.  In fact, my best friend and I thought we were just about exactly alike.

But the nuns taught that each soul was created to reflect one of the Infinite Perfections of God with such beauty and intensity that even the angels would be in awe.  And they went on to say that no other soul created before or afterward could possess the same splendor reserved for that particular soul by God….not ever.

But, I was looking at faces.  And faces weren’t all that dazzlingly different, and some were almost identical…like twins.  So, what was up with all these billions of souls being so individually precious and so beautiful that even God was madly in love with them…with all of them?

First I had to get to know the Lover.  Then He began to teach me to look beyond the faces and to see His Beauty in my brothers and sisters.  And Therese and the nuns were right.  I began to see first the tremendous dignity of each person God has created, and then the fragile loveliness of a soul…more delicate than a butterfly’s wing, and I understood how terrible a thing it is to wound such a creature….one who bears the very Image of God.

And yes, they are all different from one another….so very different.  Many people are kind, but they express it in a myriad of ways and degrees..  It is the same with all the other virtues and attributes of God.  Each person is a unique and exquisite constellation of Our Father’s Image, imprinted on that soul alone….for all time.

Therese knew this, and that is why she always treated everyone alike, aspiring to have no favorites.  Her blood sisters in the convent often complained that she seemed to love the other nuns more than she loved them.  But that wasn’t true.  She felt great natural affection and familial love for her own sisters, but she knew how to look beyond such human affection, and to love others as God loved them.

When faced with difficult people, it can be helpful to stop and contemplate how much God loves that person.  He is truly looking at us and longing for us to gaze in admiration on His beloved creation….to see the potential He sees in them.  He desires that we do all in our power to help everyone He places in our path to become the fullness of His Image within them.

Whenever Therese saw another nun committing what appeared to be a “fault,” Therese would remind herself of all the good deeds the offending nun had accomplished, which Therese had not been privileged to see.

Blogging is an excellent venue in which the uniqueness of souls is able to shine, because there are no faces, no gestures, no audible voices.  There are only ideas, words, sharing, caring…..things of the spirit, rather than the flesh.

And here, we begin to see that bloggers….like snowflakes, are delightfully different from one another.  As I click around and read my favorite blogs and then check out a new blog or two, I am always amazed at the endless variety of expression….even though the bloggers I follow are very much in agreement with one another on matters of Faith and family.  Yet, each has a niche.  Each has a beauty found nowhere else.

And here in the blogging world, there is the rare opportunity of being able to admire souls, without being distracted by faces.

On those rare occasions in my parish when a baby is baptized during Sunday Mass, the cantor sings a song which begins, “You are God’s work of art…..”

You are!  We all are!  Like the song says, “There will never be another you…..”  God loves you so much, for you resemble Him in a way that no one else ever can.  You are so precious to Him that He is waiting to give you a new name in Heaven….a “secret” name, known only to you and to Him.

Just imagine…. all the beauty of creation from its dawn until its end someday is nothing compared to you, for you bear the very Image of God.  Truly you are God’s work of art!

Father, grant that we may not hinder your work in our souls, or in the souls of our brothers and sisters, as You, with Divine Love, Wisdom, Goodness and Power are at each moment refining Your Very Image within us.  We thank You that we are Your children, destined for Glory in the Kingdom of so Great a Father, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

…..to those who prove victorious I will give some hidden manna and a white stone, with a new name written on it, known only to the person who receives it.  (Rev. 2:17) NJB