ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX
"The cherished child of the world", Thérèse entered a Carmelite monastery at the age of fifteen, and died there nine years later (Sept. 30, 1897), completely unknown outside the circle of her family and Sisters. Her 'Life', written at the direction of her superiors, has become a spiritual classic of modern times.
I opened the epistles of St Paul to try to find some cure for my sufferings. And in chapters twelve and thirteen of the First Epistle to the Corinthians I read that we cannot all be apostles, prophets and doctors, that the Church is made up of different members, and that the eye cannot also be the hand. This answer was clear enough, but it did not satisfy me and brought me no peace. But as St John of the Cross says, "descending into the depths of my own nothingness I was raised so high that I reached my goal." I went on reading and came to: "Be zealous for the better gifts. And I show you a yet more excellent way." The apostle explains how even all the most perfect gifts are nothing without love and that charity is the most excellent way of going safely to God. I had found peace at last.
I thought of the Mystical Body of the Church, but I could not recognise myself in any of its members listed by St Paul - or rather I wanted to recognise myself in all of them. Love gave me the key to my vocation. I realised that if the Church was a body made up of different members, she would not be without the greatest and most essential of them all. I realised that love includes all vocations, that love is all things, and that, because it is eternal, it embraces every time and place.
Swept by an ecstatic joy, I cried: "Jesus, my love! At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love!… In the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love. So I shall be everything and so my dreams will be fulfilled. Why do I speak of "ecstatic joy"? it's the wrong phrase to use. Instead I should speak of peace, that calm, tranquil peace which the helmsman feels as he sees the beacon which guides him into harbour. How brightly this beacon of love burns! And I know how to reach it and how to make its flames my own….
Great deeds are forbidden me. I cannot preach the Gospel nor shed my blood - but what does it matter? My brothers toil instead of me and I, a little child, well, I keep close by the throne of God a I love for those who fight.
Nothing will frighten me…. If thick clouds hide the Sun and if it seems that nothing exists beyond the night of this life - well, then, that will be a moment of perfect joy, a moment to feel complete trust and stay very still, secure in the knowledge that my adorable Sun still shines behind the clouds.