ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX
(1873 - 1897)
“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.
How astonished everyone would be if the martyrdom I have endured for the past year became known…. [Jesus] allowed pitch-black darkness to sweep over my soul and let the thought of heaven, so sweet to me since infancy, destroy all my peace and torture me. This trial was not something lasting a few days or weeks. I suffered it for months and I am still waiting for it to end. I wish I could express what I feel, but it is impossible. One must have travelled through the same sunless tunnel to understand how dark it is….
But, Lord, your child knows that you are the Light. She asks you to forgive her unbelieving brethren; she will willingly eat the bread of sorrow for as long as you wish; she will, for love of you, sit at this table where the wretched sinners eat their bitter food and will not leave it until you give her the sign. But may she not say in her own name and in the name of her guilty brethren: “O God, be merciful to us sinners…. May all those who have never been illuminated by the light of faith see it shine at last…! “
The voice of unbelievers came to mock me out of the darkness: “You dream of light, of a fragrant land, you dream that their Creator will be yours for ever and you think you will one day leave behind this fog in which you languish. Hope on! Hope on! And look forward to death! But it will give you, not what you hope for, but a still darker night, the night of annihilation…!”
I have never before felt so strongly how gentle and merciful God is. He sent me this heavy cross just at the time when I was strong enough to bear it. At any other time it would have disheartened me. Now It has only one result: it removes all natural satisfaction from my longing for heaven. It seems to me, Mother, that nothing now hinders me from flying there. I no longer want anything except to love until I die of love. I am free and fear nothing.