Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wisdom of the Little Flower

Soon, soon, to heaven that waits for us, my soul shall swiftly fly.
O Thou who can'st to smile on me at dawn of life's beginning!
Come once again to smile on me.... Mother! the night is nigh.
I fear no more thy majesty, so far, so far above me,
For, I have suffered sore with thee; now hear my heart's deep cry!
Oh! let me tell thee face to face, dear Virgin! how I love thee;
And say to thee forevermore:
thy little child am I.

(The Last poem written by St. Therese)

“Sometimes I find my self saying to the Holy Virgin: “Do you know, O cherished Mother, that I think myself more fortunate than you? I have you for Mother and you have not, like me, the blessed Virgin to love … You are, it is true, the Mother of Jesus but you have given Him to me, and He, from the Cross gave you to us as our Mother, so we are richer than you. Of old it was your desire that you might be the little handmaiden of the Mother of God; and I, poor little creature, I am, not your servant, but your child: you are the Mother of Jesus and you are my Mother.” (Thoughts of Saint Therese, 154-5)

For a sermon about Mary to bear fruit, I believe that we need to talk about her real life, such as we can discover in the Gospel and not just what we merely imagine her life was like. It is easy to imagine that her real life, in Nazareth and later, was very ordinary… 'He lived under their authority...' (Lk 2:51). How simple that sounds! We often depict Mary as inaccessible, but wouldn’t it be better to show her as imitable, practising hidden virtue, living from her faith, just like we do? We could give examples of her behavior taken from the Gospel, 'They did not understand what he meant' (Lk 2:50), or, 'The child’s father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about Him' (Lk 2:33). Their wondering could perhaps imply a certain amount of astonishment, don’t you agree, my Mother? (St Therese, Last Talks)

"A priest, clad in his sacred vestments, is Christ's viceregent to pray to God for himself and for all the people, in a suppliant and humble manner. He has before him and behind him the sign of the Cross of the Lord, that he may always remember the Passion of Christ. He bears the cross before him in his vestment, that he may diligently behold the footsteps of Christ, and fervently endeavor to follow them. He is marked with a cross behind, that he may mildly suffer, for God's sake, whatsoever adversities shall befall him from others. he wears the cross before him, that he may bewail his own sins; and behind him, that through compassion he may lament the sins of others, and know that he placed, as it were, a mediator betwixt God and the sinner. Neither ought he to cease from prayer and the holy oblation, till he be favoured with the grace and mercy which he implores. (Imitation, Bk 4;5)

The harvest-time had not yet come,
But Thou didst yearn to see
The golden grain all garnered safe
In Heaven's granary.
Lord of the harvest, send Thy priests
To reap where Thou didst sow!
To them I dedicated my life,
My sufferings here below.
(St Therese, Poems)

"Temptations are often very profitable to a man, although they be troublesome and grievous; for in them a man is humbled, purified, and instructed. All the saints have passed through many tribulations and have profited by them: and they who could not support temptations have become reprobate, and fell off. There is not any Order so holy, nor place so retired, where there are not temptations and adversities." (Imitation, 1:13)
"On the eve of Profession - which is usually spent in holy joy and peace before the dawn of the great day - I suddenly saw my vocation as a delusion, a dream. The devil - for it was assuredly he - inspired me with the conviction that the life of a Carmelite was quite unsuited for me, and that I was deceiving my Superiors by continuing in it in spite of having no vocation. I was plunged into such darkness That I could only see one thing clearly, which was, that not being called to the religious life, I must go back to the world. My distress was indescribable and I did not know what to do. However, I did the very best thing by revealing this temptation to my novice mistress; I called her out of choir, and feeling much ashamed told her in what state I was. Luckily she saw through the temptation, and laughingly reassured me. My act of humiliation instantly put the devil to flight; he had tried to make me conceal the trial and so fall into the trap, but he himself was caught, for I told all to Mother Prioress as well, and her consoling answer dispelled any lingering doubts." (The Story of a Soul)

"Thou must be content to be made a fool for Christ, if thou wilt lead a religious life" (Imitation of Christ, 1:27)
 "I am very glad, Celine, that you do not feel any natural attraction for Carmel now that you are about to enter; this is a delicate attention on the part of Our Lord who is enabling you to make Him a gift. He knows that it is more blessed to give than to receive. How blessed also to suffer reproach for the sake of Him who loves us, and to pass for fools in the eyes of the world! The foolish world, judging us by its own standard, calls us by this name, but let us take comfort in the thought that we are not the first. The only crime of which Herod accused Our Lord was madness...and in a sense he was right. It was indeed madness for the King of Glory, seated above the Cherubim, to seek out poor human hearts in which to set up His throne. Was He not infinitely happy with the Father and the Spirit of Love? Why come down on earth to make sinners His intimate friends?
We could never go to such lengths of folly to repay our Bridegroom; compared with His, our actions are quite reasonable. Let the world then leave us in peace, for it is the world which is foolish, knowing nothing of all Jesus has done and suffered to save it from perdition. (Letters)

"A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher" (Luke 6:40)
A soul isn't holy just because God uses it as an instrument. It is like an artist who uses this brush or that one. Why choose this one, or leave the other aside? It isn't any less a brush, and it could even be better than the other one. Anyway, to be used for the Master's work doesn't make one better. (...) Let's not take credit for anything, let's not make judgments. It is all to God (Advice and Memories)

"None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions" (Luke 14:33)
"I did not expect to come to Carmel to receive praise; also after the parlor visit [the interview], I never stopped telling God that it was for him alone that I wanted to be a Carmelite". (The Story of the Soul)

"They are all one through the bond of love; they have the same sentiments, the same will, and all mutually love one another" (The Imitation of Christ, Bk 3;58)
"Take, O Lord, from our hearts all jealousy, indignation, wrath, and contention, and whatsoever may hurt charity, and lessen brotherly love" (ibidem Bk 4;9)

"She spoke of the Communion of Saints, and explained that what one possessed would be shared by all: "Just as a mother is proud of her children, so we shall be proud of one another without the least trace of jealousy." (St Therese, Novissima Verba)

"It is true I am not always faithful, but I do not give way to discouragement; I just place myself in Our Lord's arms, and He teaches me to draw profit from both the good and the bad in me. He shows me how to gamble on the bank of love, or rather, He makes all the investments without consulting me. It is not my concern to know how much I am winning; what I have to do is to give myself entirely to Him. After all, I am no prodigal, there is no need for Him to prepare a feast for me, because I am always with Him (Luke 15:31).  (Letters)

Remember, Lord, that Thou didst yearn
To set man's heart aflame
With that consuming fire of love
Which from Thine own Heart came!
If from a little spark can spring
A mighty fire, Oh! then
May heart's love run through the world
And fire the hearts of men!

There are no obstacles for children; they get through everywhere. The big souls can overcome things, toss aside the difficulties, and reach a way to rise above it all by reasoning or virtue. But we who are so small must not try that. (...) To give in to things is to not look at them too closely, not to reason them out (Advice and Memories).