“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
2. She was a cloistered Carmelite nun (Born: 1873 in Alencon, France) who from as early as age three had an intense longing for God (a key element of her spirituality). She grew up in a very loving and Catholic household and her faith development was greatly influenced by her parents and older sisters. The early part of her autobiography recounts her childhood years and the many steps she took to gain early admission to the convent at Carmel at the age of fifteen. She would die nine years later.
As is not uncommon with the great saints, Therese had a profound devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Carmelites are under the patronage of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel). Therese developed a debilitating nervous condition when her sister, Pauline, left the family home to enter the convent at Carmel (Pauline had become Therese’s “second mother” upon the death of Zelie Martin – Therese’s mother – in 1877). Therese attributed her sudden cure from this illness to a prayer she made while gazing at a statue of the Virgin Mary – a prayer in which she asked the Virgin to have pity on her. Suddenly, as Therese relates:
19. A core feature of Carmelite spirituality is contemplation or contemplative prayer (Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, both Carmelites, were great mystics and contemplatives). It is sometimes thought that Saint Therese was less graced with the gift of mystical contemplation, but Father Garrigou-LaGrange challenges this notion. He states:
“Truly St. Teresa of Lisieux traced for us the simple road which leads to great heights. In her teaching, as it pleased Pope Pius XI to point out, the gift of wisdom appears in a lofty degree for the direction of souls thirsting for the truth and wishing, above all human conceptions, to live by the word of God….The way of childhood thus understood, especially as we see it toward the end of the life of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, is very elevated in its simplicity. Its lofty simplicity comes home to us because the saint certainly passed through the night of the spirit (which corresponds to the sixth mansion of St. Teresa of Avila), as may be seen on reading chapter nine of the Histoire d’une ame. It was the reading of this chapter, some thirty years ago, that gave us the idea of explaining the night of the spirit by a profound and intense influence of the gift of understanding, which brings out in powerful relief the formal motive of humility and of each of the three theological virtues. Thereby these infused virtues are purified of all alloy or attachment to secondary and accessory motives on which until then the soul had dwelt excessively” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Chapter 41, regarding the way of spiritual childhood).
20. I think one could make a strong case that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit were highly operational in Saint Therese’s life, even from an early age: the Gift of Fear in her reverence for God and holiness; the Gift of Piety in her tenderness and affection for God as Father; the Gift of Fortitude in her ability to overcome many difficulties and sufferings in the pursuit of holiness; the Gift of Counsel in her docility to the will of God; the Gift of Knowledge in her grasping the vanity of all earthly things that pass away; the Gift of Understanding in her profound understanding of spiritual truths and her ability to express them in written form; and the Gift of Wisdom in her union with God through love and contemplation . What I have said here is both cursory and inadequate and could be greatly expanded upon by many concrete examples from her life and writings.
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
References: I am relying primarily on St. Therese’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, including the Introduction by John Beevers in the Image Edition and the Introduction by John Clarke in the ICS Edition; and John Beever’s biography of St. Therese, Storm of Glory; and Ralph Martin’s audio presentation on Saint Therese available at renewalministries.net
Image: Saint Therese at age 13 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)
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