Wednesday 25 October 2023

St Thérèse of Lisieux: Transformation into Love - Jennifer Moorcroft - CTS Biographies

St Thérèse of Lisieux: Transformation into Love
Jennifer Moorcroft
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784697624
eISBN 9781784697136
CTS Booklet B780

St Thérèse of Lisieux: Transformation into Love - Jennifer Moorcroft - CTS Biographies

This is the seventh volume from Jennifer Moorcroft that I have read. All of the ones I have read are from the Catholic Truth Society. A number of years ago I stumbled upon the CTS books while doing research on an author, since then I have read 369 different volumes from them, and many of them more than once. I instantly fell in love with the clear and concise writing in the CTs books; the wonderful lives of Saints and Blesseds, amazing histories and the church teaching. I have read over 368 books from the CTS, and I have been blessed and benefited from almost all of them. There are many wonderful series. Nearly all have been excellent. I now purchase all new eBooks that are available from the CTS as soon as they release. These one and three others were available on the same day and this was the second of them that I read. 

The description of this book is:

“Throughout her short, humble life, St Thérèse of Lisieux exemplified her “Little Way”, the spiritual maxim to do little things with great love. This deeply personal biography paints a vivid and relatable picture of the saint who somehow became smaller and simpler as she grew.

Perhaps one of the most beloved saints of recent times, St Thérèse of Lisieux's life was quiet, humble, and very short. In the final years of her life, this unassuming saint was asked to record not only her life but her "Little Way", the spiritual maxim to do little things with great love. Published only after her death, the profound influence of these writings on the spirituality of the faithful led to her being named a Doctor of the Church, the youngest to date.

For ardent devotees of St Thérèse as well as for those more hesitant in their devotion to the saint, this deeply personal biography paints a vivid and relatable picture of the saint who somehow became smaller and simpler as she grew.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Trials and a Heavenly Smile
Towards Carmel
The Novitiate
Assistant Novice Mistress
In Community
Years of Growth
Martyrdom of Love
Timeline of the “Storm of Glory”

I highlighted a several passages my first time through this volume; some of them are:

“Thérèse sat with her beloved Papa as they fished in the river. She loved sitting beside him, or even alone, on the grass thinking “profound thoughts” of heaven. This simple reflection that she recorded in her autobiography tells us much about the child who would become “the greatest saint of modern times” as she has been called.”

“Even more, the Martin family lived a faith that permeated their whole lives. From an early age, Thérèse had only had to look at her father to know what the love of her “Papa in Heaven” was like and look at her mother to see the smile of Mary, her mother in heaven.”

“Thérèse’s happy disposition was completely changed by her mother’s death. She became withdrawn, timid and over-sensitive, easily reduced to tears, despite the affection of her father and the two eldest daughters’ untiring love and tenderness.”

“More change came when she was eight and a half years old and joined Céline as a day girl at the Benedictine Abbey school, where her mother’s older sister, Sr Dorothea, was a nun. Thérèse said that if it had not been for Céline’s presence, she would not have lasted the five years she was there. Marie and Pauline had already been giving her lessons, and she was ahead of all the other girls in her class, but she had not been prepared for the rough and tumble of school. She didn’t know how to play the playground games; she was the odd one out and she could respond to her classmates’ teasing only with tears. There was a girl in her class, not too bright but who had a way of influencing the other girls and even the teachers. She was so jealous of Thérèse always coming top in class that she seemed to have a thousand ways of making her unhappy. But a further trial awaited Thérèse.”

“When she was just three years old, Thérèse had heard whisperings that Pauline would become a religious. Not knowing what that meant, she thought, “I will be a religious, too!”8 Pauline had told her that she would have to wait until she was sixteen to enter Carmel; this was now her fixed goal: “I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others.”9 She saw the crucifix and Christ’s blood soaking the ground; she longed to gather it up to pour it out especially on sinners.”

“She was deeply moved when, once they were in Rome, they visited the Catacombs and the Colosseum. She gazed on the spot where Christians had spilt their blood for love of Christ but was disappointed that it was simply a heap of masonry. Their goal was the audience with the Holy Father, Pope Leo III – for Thérèse, her boldest attempt yet to gain assent to enter Carmel. If the Pope himself gave her permission, then no one lower down the ranks could possibly object!”

“But her efforts were not in vain. On New Year’s Day she received a letter from Mother Marie de Gonzague to say that the bishop had given his consent, but that her entry would, sensibly, be delayed until after Lent. To Thérèse, the three months seemed a long wait, but the doors of Carmel had been opened for her.”

“When Thérèse was a child, Léonie had come down-stairs one day with a box of childhood knickknacks that she said she was too old for, asking whether anyone would like them. Thérèse had taken them all, declaring “I take everything.” Later, she recognised that that was her motto for Carmel – she wanted to receive everything from God and would give herself totally to him, holding nothing back.”

“Thérèse did not think about where that suffering would come from. She was, after all, still a child from a very protected background. She, in effect, had lost three mothers, and entering Carmel had received two of them back, as well as a new mother in the prioress. It would have been but human to have wanted that security again. But Thérèse knew she had to resist this temptation, treating her two sisters as she would any other sister in the community.”

“Thérèse had never been accustomed to household chores or manual work, and to her embarrassment she was slow and clumsy at them. Sr St Vincent de Paul, a lay sister, nicknamed her “the big nanny goat”, because of her slowness. This sister was to be a continual source of such pinpricks for Thérèse throughout her time in the monastery.”

“Sr Febronie, the subprioress, was able to put her mind at rest one day during recreation, by suggesting a reason for Thérèse’s reticence: “Because your soul is extremely simple, but when you will be perfect, you will be even more simple; the closer one approaches God, the simpler one becomes.””

“That vision of the face covered with a veil entered deeply into Thérèse’s psyche and made her ponder deeply on the Sacred Face of Jesus, a devotion that had begun in the Carmel of Tours and which Sr Agnès had introduced to her sister. As she received the habit, Thérèse added on to her existing name, “Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus”, the words “and the Holy Face”.”

“The taking of vows was a private affair, and the receiving of the black veil of the professed sister on 24th September was a public ceremony. Thérèse could not help shedding tears of disappointment because her father was too ill to attend. Fr Pichon, a close friend of the family whom she had hoped would be there, was in Canada, and the bishop was sick. Even so, Thérèse was now given wholly to the Lord she loved with her whole heart, and for her there was no going back.”

“They were not fools; they soon understood that Thérèse was there not only to train them, but also to tactfully correct the former prioress’s more idiosyncratic ways. Thérèse realised that it was a task that was beyond her and went before the Blessed Sacrament to put it in Our Lord’s hands. She said that she always received the graces she needed at the time she needed them; the novices even thought she had the gift of reading their souls.”

“There were two words that for Thérèse summed up her “Little Way”: “abandonment” and “love”. She wanted her novices to recognise their poverty in order to throw themselves with ever greater confidence into the arms of their heavenly Father. Thérèse rejoiced in her littleness, her imperfection, because she knew that it was only the mercy and love of Jesus which could transform her and lift her to the heights of holiness.”

“Gradually, several sisters, such as Sr St John of the Cross, many years her senior, began to seek Thérèse out privately to ask her advice, convinced of her integrity and sensing something of her spiritual depth.”

“Thérèse had a profound humility; she recognised that she had nothing of herself, only what was given her day by day by God. He gave her the food her novices needed, and she much preferred the “vinegar” of a criticism than the honey of a compliment.”

“Now, during those joyful days of Easter, a shutter came down on her faith: “Suddenly the fog that surrounds me becomes more dense; it penetrates my soul and envelops it in such a way that it is impossible to discover within it the sweet image of my Fatherland; everything has disappeared!”50 Not that the community noticed anything different in her. She continued to instruct her novices; she continued to write letters and poems that delighted her sisters. But what she was communicating was what she wanted to believe, not what she now felt she did believe.”

“It was her very littleness that both consoled and tormented Thérèse. Since childhood, she had longed to be a saint, a martyr, a missionary, a priest – a Doctor of the Church, even. Instead, God had guided her to a monastery, with only small things to do, and an often-monotonous routine. Is this what God really wanted from her?”

“Thérèse recognised that she could not perform the great deeds of the “Eagles” of the Church; instead, like a child, she would do the little things with great love, by “not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love”.52”

“There was discussion about the circular that would be sent to other Carmels, which, as customary, would detail the deceased sister’s life. Both Mother Agnès and Mother Marie de Gonzague felt the account of her life Thérèse had written, and her letters to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, should be circulated instead. This had Thérèse’s approval, because she had already discerned that her writings would be part of her apostolate after her death.”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for the volume. The CTS has several books by and about Saint Therese of Lisieux both in print and out of print. So one might ask, why another volume. There is already an extensive canon of works about Therese. And to be honest I cannot answer tat question, but have read a number of other works by and about this saint, I am very thankful for this new offering from the CTS and from the pen of Jennifer Moorcroft. Moorcroft writes in a clean and engaging manner. While reading her books I loose track of time. 

This was another wonderful read from the masterful pen of Jennifer Moorcroft. I have recommended it to a number of people, while reading it and since I finished it. And I have had conversations with my 17 year old daughter about the book and Saint Therese. This is a great little volume. It seems every time I read a book from the Catholic Truth Society I find 2 or three others I want to read. I have an ever growing wish list of eBooks, books in print, and books out of print I want to track down. I enjoyed this volume immensely. Like several other by Moorcroft I learned, I was challenged, and I was encouraged. This is an excellent read from this author from the CTS, and I can easily recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews in the CTS Biographies Series Click here.
For reviews of other books about St Thérèse of Lisieux click here.

CTS Books and Booklets n the life and spirituality of St Thérèse:
Thérèse of Lisieux - On the visit of her relics to Great Britain (Do 810)
Thérèse, teacher of Prayer, by Bro Craig (D 693)
Thérèse of Lisieux, a biography, by Vernon Johnson (B 204)
The Little Way of Thérèse, In her own Words (D 707)
Louis and Zélie Martin, Parents of Thérèse of Lisieux, by Paulinus Redmond (B 709)
The Prayer of St Thérèse of Lisieux by Vernon Johnson (CL23)

Books by Jennifer Moorcroft:
A Catholic Response to the Jehovah's Witnesses
Saint Therese of Lisieux and Her Sisters 
When Silence Speaks. The Life and Spirituality of Elisabeth Leseur
The Hidden Light: A Life of Saint Dominic
He is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity
God Is All Joy: The Life of St. Teresa of the Andes

In the CTS Great Saints Series:
Elizabeth of the Trinity 

St Thérèse of Lisieux: Transformation into Love - Jennifer Moorcroft - CTS Biographies

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