Thérèse has much to teach our age of the image, the appearance, the “self.” We have become a dangerously self-conscious people, painfully aware of the need to be fulfilled, yet knowing we are not. Thérèse, like so many saints, sought to serve others, to do something outside herself, to forget herself in quiet acts of love. She is one of the great examples of the gospel paradox that we gain our life by losing it, and that the seed that falls to the ground must die in order to live.
Here is a sampling of Thérèse's letters.
All for Love of Jesus
Before “resting in the shadow of him whom I desired,” I was to pass through many trials, but the divine call was so strong that had I been forced to pass through flames, I would have done it out of love for Jesus.
Story of a Soul | Chapter Five
Suffering and Glory
I understood what real glory was. He whose Kingdom is not of this world showed me that true wisdom consists in “desiring to be unknown and counted as nothing,” in “placing one’s joy in contempt of self.” Ah! I desired that, like the Face of Jesus, “my face be truly hidden, that no one on earth would know me.” I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten.
Story of a Soul | Chapter Seven
Giving Rest to Our Lord
I should have spoken to you about the retreat preceding my Profession, dear Mother, before speaking about the trial I have mentioned; it was far from bringing me any consolations since the most absolute aridity and almost total abandonment were my lot. Jesus was sleeping as usual in my little boat; ah! I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them. Jesus is so fatigued with always having to take the initiative and to attend to others that He hastens to take advantage of the repose I offer to Him. He will undoubtedly awaken before my great eternal retreat, but instead of being troubled about it, this only gives me extreme pleasure.
Story of a Soul | Chapter Eight
The Dream of Martyrdom
Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me within Carmel’s cloisters. But here again, I feel that my dream is folly, for I cannot confine myself to desiring one kind of martyrdom. To satisfy me I need all. Like You, my Adorable Spouse, I would be scourged and crucified. I would die flayed like St. Bartholomew. I would be plunged into boiling oil like St. Kohn; I would undergo all the tortures inflicted upon the martyrs. With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, I would present my neck to the sword, and like Joan of Arc, my dear sister I would whisper at the stake Your Name, O Jesus.
Story of a Soul | Chapter Nine
Suffering and Joy
I really feel that I would have no disappointment, for when one expects pure and unmixed suffering, the smallest joy becomes an unhoped-for surprise. And you know, Mother, that suffering itself becomes the greatest joys when one seeks it as the most precious of treasures.
Story of a Soul | Chapter Ten
A Day without Suffering Is a Day Lost
Tomorrow, it will be a month that I am far from you, but it seems to me that we are not separated. What does the place matter where we are? Even if the ocean were to separate us, we would remain united, for our desires are the same and our hearts beat together…I am sure that you understand me. (What does it matter after all whether life is cheerful or sad, we would nonetheless reach the end of our journey here below). A day of a Carmelite spent without suffering is a day lost. For you it is the same thing, for you are a Carmelite at heart.