St. Thérèse on Prayer

Quite often when pondering the lives of the saints we hear of great miracles (e.g., ecstasies, healings, levitations, etc.). It is rare that we hear of a saint’s faults and weaknesses. Sometimes we need to hear about these in order to be able to relate to them; to realize that they were "earthen vessels" like the rest of us. One of Saint Thérèse’s weaknesses was distraction at prayer. However, this did not keep her from trudging along her "little way". As we shall see in her autobiography and letters, Saint Thérèse faithfully acknowledged her weakness to God, trusting in His Infinite Mercy to forgive.

Three letters taken from General Correspondence Volume Two Translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright (c) 1988 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, 2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 U.S.A.

From Thérèse to Céline.

July 18, 1893



Dear Céline,

I was not counting on answering your letter this time, but our Mother wants me to add a note to hers. What things I would have to tell you! But since I have only a few moments, I must first assure the little drop of dew that her Thérèse understands her… After having read your letter, I went to prayer, and taking the gospel, I asked Jesus to find a passage for you, and this is what I found: "Behold the fig tree and the other trees, when they begin to bear tender leaves, you judge that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things taking place, know that the kingdom of God is near." I closed the book, I had read enough; in fact, these things taking place in my Céline’s soul prove the kingdom of Jesus is set up in her soul…. Now I want to tell you what is taking place in my own soul; no doubt, it is the same things as in yours. You have rightly said, Céline, the cool mornings have passed for us, there remain no more flowers to gather, Jesus has taken them for Himself. Perhaps He will make new ones bloom one day, but in the meantime what must we do? Céline, God is no longer asking anything from me…in the beginning, He was asking an infinity of things from me. I thought, at times, that since Jesus was no longer asking anything from me, I had to go along quietly in peace and love, doing only what He was asking me…. But I had a light. St. Teresa [of Avila] says we must maintain love. The wood is not within our reach when we are in darkness, in aridities, but at least are we not obliged to throw little pieces of straw on it? Jesus is really powerful enough to keep the fire going by Himself. However, He is satisfied when He sees us put a little fuel on it. This attentiveness pleases Jesus, and then He throws on the fire a lot of wood. We do not see it, but we do feel the strength of love’s warmth. I have experienced it; when I am feeling nothing, when I am INCAPABLE of praying, of practicing virtue, then is the moment for seeking opportunities, nothings, which please Jesus more than mastery of the world or even martyrdom suffered with generosity. For example, a smile, a friendly word, when I would want to say nothing, or put on a look of annoyance, etc., etc.

Céline, do you understand? It is not for the purpose of weaving my crown, gaining merits, it is in order to please Jesus…. When I do not have any opportunities, I want at least to tell Him frequently that I love Him; this is not difficult, and it keeps the fire going. Even though this fire of love would seem to me to have gone out, I would like to throw something on it, and Jesus could then relight it. Céline, I am afraid I have not said what I should; perhaps you will think I always do what I am saying. Oh, no! I am not always faithful, but I never get discouraged; I abandon myself into the arms of Jesus. The little drop of dew goes deeper into the calyx of the flower of the fields, and there it finds again all it has lost and even much more.

Your little Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face

re. carm. ind.