Beyond friend or foe

Once again, listening to St Theresa of Lisieux in her autobiography ‘Story of a Soul’ her thoughts struck with relevancy. I have been missing Ann strongly the last couple of days. Drawing people to me at the Shrine, comfortable in life, invigorated by a calling, I properly and authentically long for her voice, her influence and presence reaffirmed in my life. When I heard the following quote I laughed with recognition. Within the Little Flower’s peculiar sincere way existed the potency of my interaction with Ann. There is not a spiritual voice in my life who has elevated my spiritual life as she does. I am positive it is God working and gracing our being together. It is painful at times, yet I cannot deny the truth and overall lifting I experience.

And now, dear Mother, I will tell you wherein I gain most with the novices. You know they are allowed without restriction to say anything to me, agreeable or the reverse; this is all the easier since they do not owe me the respect due to a Novice-Mistress. I cannot say that Our Lord makes me walk in the way of exterior humiliation; He is satisfied with humbling me in my inmost soul. In the eyes of creatures all is success, and I walk in the dangerous path of honour—if a religious may so speak. I understand God’s way and that of my superiors in this respect; for if the Community thought me incapable, unintelligent, and wanting in judgment, I could be of no possible use to you, dear Mother. This is why the Divine Master has thrown a veil over all my shortcomings, both interior and exterior. Because of this veil I receive many compliments from the novices—compliments without flattery, for they really mean what they say; and they do not inspire me with vanity, for the remembrance of my weakness is ever before me. At times my soul tires of this over-sweet food, and I long to hear something other than praise; then Our Lord serves me with a nice little salad, well spiced, with plenty of vinegar—olive oil alone is wanting, and this it is which makes it more to my taste. And the salad is offered to me by the novices at the moment I least expect. God lifts the veil that hides my faults, and my dear little Sisters, beholding me as I really am, do not find me altogether agreeable. With charming simplicity, they tell me how I try them and what they dislike in me; in fact, they are as frank as though they were speaking of someone else, for they are aware that I am pleased when they act in this way.

I am more than pleased—I am transported with delight by this splendid banquet set before me. How can anything so contrary to our natural inclinations afford such extraordinary pleasure? Had I not experienced it, I could not have believed it possible.

One day, when I was ardently longing for some humiliation, a young postulant came to me and sated my desire so completely, that I was reminded of the occasion when Semei cursed David, and I repeated to myself the words of the holy King: “Yea, it is the Lord who hath bidden him say all these things.” In this way God takes care of me. He cannot always provide that strength-giving bread, exterior humiliation, but from time to time He allows me to eat of “the crumbs from the table of the children.” How magnificent are His Mercies!


Notice the Carmelite habit underneath the Joan of Arc theatrical costume of St Theresa.


Leave a reply