When the archangel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady, after honoring what God had done in her soul and calling her full of grace, one of the first things he told Mary was not to be afraid. This is a strong message in all of sacred scripture, a theme, a golden thread from Genesis to Apocalypse. Do not be afraid, says the Lord.
At the end of Manuscript A, the first of her three manuscripts in A Story of a Soul, Thérèse says, “I am far from being on the way of fear.” In other words, she says, ‘I’m not afraid of God.’ Similarly, Padre Pio says, “El miedo es un mal peor que el mismo mal.” Fear is an evil worst than evil itself because fear oftentimes projects a false reality. We can easily become afraid of something that hasn’t already happened. Fear is just a total imagination, a trip of the mind. It’s not even real. Fear is a phantom, a shadow. It’s smoke, nothing that’s even really substantial.
Thérèse writes, “I always find a way to be happy and to profit from my miseries.” ‘No matter what happens I find a way to bring good out of it.’ This is a theme from Romans 8:28. She continues, “How sweet is the way of love,” rather than the way of fear. As Saint John says, ‘Perfect love casts out all fear.’ Thérèse says, “True, one can fall or commit infidelities, but love knows how to draw profit from everything.” In other words, God can use anything to bring out good. There are no obstacles to God’s Mercy to use as material to draw us closer to Himself and to sanctify us.
Thérèse says that even if there are fallings and infidelities, “Love quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus. It leaves nothing but a humble and profound peace in the depth of the heart.” If you’ve ever read The Name of God is Mercy, we see many of these themes in Pope Francis, a person who really knows Thérèse deeply and who is very much in the school of Saint Thérèse.
Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom Pope Francis recently canonized, Thérèse refused Jesus nothing. She always gave Him all. She always gave Him everything. In The Little Child of God’s Mercy, the author, a Spanish contemplative monk, writes, “The essential trait of what must make up our response to the Lord’s love is giving oneself without limit.” Generosity. We see this total generosity in Saint Thérèse and this explains how she was able to progress so much spiritually and to be transformed from one degree of God’s love for her to another.
The author continues, “Thérèse’s life would become a continual search for an evermore perfect giving.” She was always looking for the opportunity of giving herself to God. She was always asking, ‘How can I be drawn closer to God in giving myself more deeply to Him.’ She was always findings ways to love Love, to love the God who is Love. He continues, “The only means she found was to give herself up to that love so as to quench with her own, almost infinite thirst, the divine thirst of Jesus. This answer, to quench the thirst of Jesus, was Saint Thérèse’s Offering to Merciful Love.”
Saint Thérèse wrote the Offering to Merciful Love almost a year before she wrote Manuscript B. By her oblation, in her free, total act of the will, with all of her being, once and for all, Thérèse answers the appeal of Love. The oblation is a deepening of her baptism, a deepening of her solemn profession. She makes it definitive. This is her answer to the appeal of Love whose cry, ‘I thirst,’ echoed within her own heart in her desire to make Love loved.
Thérèse’s middle name is Francis, one of the top five all-time greatest saints loved by the world, and she really has his spirit. He was a seraphic little man, so on fire with Jesus Christ, and mirrored the life of Jesus almost more than someone as great as Saint Paul and Saint John the beloved disciple of Jesus. Francis often said, ‘Love is not loved. The God who is Love is not loved.’ What an irony! What a contradiction! How can Love not be loved? Thérèse experienced the same passion.
In the Act of Oblation, she surrenders her nothingness with blind trust to the very heart of the all-powerful divine tenderness of God. Her only concern was to give love in return for Love. As Saint John of the Cross says, ‘Love is repaid by love alone.’ She felt her supreme misery, her own impoverishment; she had nothing to offer to God, who is all-holy, all mighty in majesty. The Spanish author of The Little Child of God’s Mercy, writes, “Her felt depth of the abyss of her own misery, such that one feels and is so empty of self [everything that can be sacrificed of oneself is sacrificed], she places this with abandonment on the waves of Mercy’s tenderness. Her dispositions were those of total poverty”(to be continued).
Saint Thérèse and all Carmelite saints, pray for us.
(SOURCE: San Rafael, CA Novena, September 2016) Thérèse 7- transcribed by TL
Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved
‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’