THE SCIENCE OF LOVE
A Study in the Teachings of Therese of Lisieux
by John C. H. Wu
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Love and Science
Some Types of Saints: Martha and Magdalene
Love: Natural and Divine
Sincerity as the Soul of Love
God as a Lover
The Martyrdom of Love
"A Baby Who Is An Old Man"
Emancipation Through Love
The Art of Life
The Logic of Love
Life and Death
"The mercies of God I shall sing forever!" (Psalm 88, 1). These words were
carved on the tombstone of St. Therese in the Cemetery of Lisieux and
epitomize perfectly the life and ideals of the great Saint. They also form
a fitting introduction to this essay on the science of love as conceived by
the Little Flower, as St. Therese is more lovingly known.
The author of these beautiful pages, Dr. John C. H. Wu, who was converted
to the Catholic Faith in the winter of 1937 through the influence of St.
Therese of Lisieux, can justly join the little Saint in her pean of praise
for the mercy of God. For it is to God's infinite mercy and love that he
owes that wondrous peace which his soul now possesses through the
revelation of the great truth on which the Church founded by Christ was
Adopting Protestantism about 20 years ago, Dr. Wu soon discovered the
inconsistency and confusion of its vague theology, founded on the free
interpretation of the Bible, and its appalling lack of unity and certainty.
His mind, slowly but inevitably, wandered away unsatisfied and darkened by
the shadow of uncertainty and doubt. He drifted dangerously towards
atheism. But when his faith was at its lowest ebb, God's merciful hand
lifted the veil and brought light to his soul.
A short pamphlet on St. Therese casually picked up gave him the key to the
hidden treasures of a Faith which knows no doubt and brings human souls in
loving confidence into the arms of God as into the arms of a most tender
mother. Then followed the reading, also casual, of Newman's essay on the
Infallibility of the Pope and the Church. This banished all his final
doubts. It soon became evident to Dr. Wu that a Church which had produced
an Augustine of Hippo, a Dante, a Pascal and a Thomas Aquinas, was the only
logical and traditional inheritor of Christ's Church. His entry into it was
a foregone conclusion.
In the spiritual school of St. Therese, Dr. Wu discovered that the true
Catholic conception of life is not, as it is sometimes falsely represented,
a mere bargain with God, or a dry series of "don'ts" with heavy sanctions,
but a simple, complete and loving surrender of the creature to its Creator,
a falling in love of man with God, and, to express it in his own words, "a
kiss for a kiss, or rather a small kiss for a big kiss" between the soul
and its Redeemer.
It is this keynote of a life of love which impressed him most in the
writings of St. Therese and led him to embrace wholeheartedly the Religion
that has given the world the sweet Little Flower.
Therefore, when one of his colleagues on the Board of Editors of the "T'ien
Hsia Monthly," (an English-language publication, which aims at bringing
about a better cultural understanding between China and the West), asked
him to write an article, he found he could choose no better subject than
his newly-embraced Faith. The result was first published in the April, 1940
issue of the "T'ien Hsia Monthly," which is published under the auspices of
the Sun Yat-sen Institute for the Advancement of Culture and Education,
The reception accorded it is ample justification, if any were needed, for
this booklet. In passages of surpassing beauty, we find not a theoretical
study of a mystic conception of life, nor the dry analysis of a religious
system, but a deeply moving interpretation of the way of Christian love. It
also reveals a profound insight into a soul vibrating with life and
inflamed with love, a soul so deeply human and yet so divinely
supernatural: the soul of Therese of Lisieux.
In a previous article, Dr. Wu had written: "I have been searching all my
life for a mother, and I have found her in the Catholic Church." And he has
found in her not only a mother, but also the greatest gift a mother can
This inspired essay is his song of gratitude to the mercy of God, Who has
raised him from the depths and darkness of atheism to the heights and
radiant light of Catholicism.
He may well sing in unison with Saint Therese these beautiful lines from
Fra Luis de Leon's poem, "The Life of the Blessed":
"From His sweet lute flow forth
Immortal harmonies of power to still
All passions born of earth,
And draw the ardent will
Its destiny of goodness to fulfill.
"Might but a little part
A wandering breath of that high melody
Descend into my heart
And change it till it be
Transformed and swallowed up, O Love, in Thee!"
I heard the name of Therese of Lisieux for the first time at the home of my
dear friend, Mr. Yuan Kia-hoang, a most zealous Catholic. In the Winter of
1937, I was living in Mr. Yuan's house, and I was impressed by the way the
Yuans recited their family Rosary. Seeing a portrait of Saint Therese, I
asked him, "Is this the Virgin Mary?" He told me that it was the "Little
Flower of Jesus." "Who is this Little Flower of Jesus?" I asked. He looked
surprised and said, "What! You don't even know Saint Therese of Lisieux?"
Then he gave me a French pamphlet entitled Ste. Therese de l'Enfant-Jesus,
which contained a short account of her life and many specimens of her
thoughts. Somehow I felt those thoughts expressed some of my deepest
convictions about Christianity which I happened to entertain at that time.
I said to myself, "If this saint represents Catholicism, I don't see any
reason why I should not be a Catholic."
Being a Protestant, I was free to choose whatever interpretation suited
best my own reason, and her interpretation was exactly the right one for
me, and that made me a Catholic! When I confided my decision to Mr. Yuan,
he almost fainted with joy, for, as he told me afterwards, he had been
praying for my conversion for ten years! God answered his prayers in his
own house. And the most remarkable thing about it is that no one could ever
have foreseen the circumstances that led me to live with his family by that
Ever since my first acquaintance with the sweet Saint, my love for her has
been growing. She has taught me how to love Jesus and how to love our
Mother the Blessed Virgin. In a most miraculous way, she has converted my
One day my little daughter, "the little Teresa," was sick. The doctor said
that it was a very serious case of pneumonia, and that it would take at
least nine days for her to recover, during which period we had to be
extremely careful. Being a most competent and honest doctor, there is
absolutely no doubt that his diagnosis was right. So we were frightened;
especially as my wife was on the point of delivering another child, and if
she were to nurse the girl for nine days, she would be likely to collapse
under the weight not only of the physical labor but also of the mental
As for the girl, her fever was running high, and the doctor told us that it
was just the beginning and everything depended upon later developments.
After consulting my wife, I rang up Father Maestrini, requesting him to
come to us and baptize the girl. He did so. Soon after, my wife knelt
before Saint Therese with the sick baby in her arms, and prayed in deep
earnestness. I could not hear her words. When she rose, I asked her what
she had said to the Saint. She answered, "Oh, I just told her that Lan-
hsien is too hard to bring up; I am not fit to be her mother, so I begged
Saint Therese to be her mother."
Next morning, the doctor came again and, taking the temperature of little
Teresa, found that it was a little below one hundred! It had been a hundred
and five on the previous day! Then he examined the lungs, and found the
pneumonia gone! The only words he uttered were, "Wonderful! Wonderful!"
I told him what had happened and asked him whether he would be willing to
certify to my story if I were to write it out in detail someday. He said,
"Certainly!" The story is too long to tell here. What interests me just now
is the story of the conversion of my wife.
Some time ago, my wife met Madame H. H. Kung, and, as their friendship
grew, the nobility of the latter's character impressed her deeply and
opened her eyes to the beauties of Christianity; but it was Saint Therese
who confirmed entirely her faith in Christ. As for me, my only function is
to teach her the Catechism. I never have wanted to impose my own Faith upon
my family, but God loves us so much that He has condescended to be the Host
of our humble home. During my life God has showered one honor after another
upon my head; it is beyond my power to requite Him in the slightest degree.
But as if all His other blessings were not enough, He has given me the
supreme honor of supping with us day in, day out! Now I have learned the
art of prayer from my wife. I simply say to Jesus, "I am not able to pay my
immense debt to God; pay it for me!"
Before concluding this preface, I wish to express my thanks to all my
friends who have helped me one way or another in preparing this little
pamphlet, especially to a very learned and wise Father and Miss Ailien
Therese Wu, whose suggestions I have gladly incorporated into this paper.
Above all I am grateful to the Blessed Virgin, to whom I prayed before I
started my essay, "Mother, help me to paint a good portrait of your beloved
child Therese, my beloved spiritual sister." So, my gentle reader, if you
like this essay, the credit is to be given to her; if you don't like it,
the fault is mine; but if you like it and yet do not come to love Therese
and her Divine Lover as I do, the fault will be yours.
J. C. H. Wu.
LOVE AND SCIENCE
Shortly before his death, Goethe said to Eckermann, "Let mental culture go
on advancing; let the natural sciences go on gaining in depth and breadth,
and the human mind expand as it may--it will never go beyond the elevation
and moral culture of Christianity as it glistens and shines forth in the
Gospel!" Since these words were uttered, more than a century has passed
during which the natural sciences have made tremendous progress, and
psychology has probed deep into the darkest nooks and corners of the human
mind. But have we gone beyond the elevation and moral culture of
Christianity? No, Christianity still continues to shine as the Morning Star
and will continue to shine to the end of time. In fact, as Pope Pius XI
pointed out, "It might even be said that a knowledge of Nature will serve
as an introduction to what is of far greater value, an understanding of
things supernatural." The more science grows, the nearer we shall be to a
living Faith. Material civilization is a welcome fuel to the fire of love.
If the fire is weak, it may be smothered by the fuel. But if the fire is
strong, the more fuel it has to feed on, the brighter will be its flame.
I have just read a love song of ancient China:
"A quiet girl,--oh, she is charming!
She gave me a roseate flute.
Oh, how splendid are the colors of the flute! How they chime in with the
beauty of the girl!
From the pastures she brought rush-wool, Beautiful and rare indeed!
Oh, rush-wool, you would not be so lovely,
If you were not the gift of my love."
I wonder what a modern girl would present to her lover. Instead of a
roseate flute, she might give a motor-car or a radio set. Instead of rush-
wool, she might give a piece of brocade or even a gorgeous rug. The
important thing is love, and so long as love is there, what difference does
it make how it happens to manifest itself.
If there is any difference at all, one would prefer a radio to a roseate
flute, and brocade to rush-wool. Love has nothing to lose and everything to
gain by the continual progress of civilization. And how can science ever
supersede Christianity, which is the Religion of Love "par excellence?"
To my mind, the most beautiful exposition of the philosophy of Love is that
of St. Paul. Let me present it in my own paraphrase:
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is free from envy, free from vanity,
free from pride, free from ambition, free from self-seeking, free from
anger, and free from resentfulness. Love finds no joy in the errings of
others, but is gladdened by goodness and truth. Love bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love is a
living fountain that never dries up.
No one is more gifted than St. Paul, and no one knows better that all gifts
are of no account if they are not lit up by the flame of Love. He expresses
this perfectly when he says:
I may be able to speak all the languages of men and of angels, but if I
have no love, I am no better than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. I may
be able to prophesy, I may fathom all mysteries, I may possess all
knowledge, I may even have such faith as would move mountains, but if I
have no love, I am nothing. I may distribute all my goods to feed the poor,
I may even offer my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, there is no
virtue in these actions.
The whole trouble about modern civilization seems to me to lie just in
this: "here is too much love of science and too little science of love."
"The science of love!" exclaimed little Therese, "Ah! sweet is the echo of
that word to the ear of my soul! I desire no other science than that. For
the sake of love, having given all my riches, like the spouse in the
Canticles, I feel as though I had given nothing. There is nothing except
love which could render us agreeable to the good God. This is so plain to
me that this love has become the sole treasure upon which I set my heart."
To give all and to reckon it as nothing--that is the acme of love!
SOME TYPES OF SAINTS: MARTHA AND MAGDALENE
Now, to Christians, there is no other way of loving God than by loving
Jesus His Son, for it is through Jesus that God has revealed Himself to
man. The Word took on flesh in order that all flesh might take on Divinity.
The incarnation of the Word has humanized the relation between the Creator
and the creature. For human purposes, to love Jesus is the same as to love
God, for Jesus is God.
But what exactly is God to us? Is He our Father? Yes, He is our Father, but
He is more than that. Is He then our Mother? Yes, He is also our Mother,
but He is more than that. He is, besides, our Friend, our Brother, our
Sister, our Spouse, our Lord, our Minister, our All!
His relation with us is so all-embracing that it includes all the five
relations of men and something infinitely more. We may call Him this or
that; but all these names are used analogically, for human language has its
limits, beyond which it can no longer denote anything definite and can at
best only hint. So long as we use them only as hints, all names of human
relations can be applied to God, and with equal appropriateness.
Do you remember the question of Jesus, "Who is my mother and who are my
brethren?" Pointing to His disciples, He said, "Behold my mother and my
brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven,
he is my brother, and sister, and mother."
So Peter the rugged fisherman was to Him not only brother, but sister and
mother as well! This is how God uses human language, which is intrinsically
so poor that there is no adequate term to designate our relation with Him,
with the result that He Himself has to resort to figures of speech, to
borrow, as it were, from human relations.
Now, of all relations, the dearest and the most fundamental is, at least
according to the Chinese way of thinking, that between man and woman. It
is, then, no accident that many saints, and among them some of the
greatest, purest and sweetest, speak of their relation with God in terms of
the Bridegroom and the bride. This is the highest offering that human
speech can make to God.
What fitter language can we use toward Him than what we find in the
Canticle of Canticles? "Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy
breasts are better than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointments." "I
found him whom my soul loveth. I hold him: and I will not let him go, till
I bring him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her who bore
me." "My soul melted when he spoke."
All saints have one thing in common, their love of God; and yet there are
saints and saints. Some love Him primarily as their Father, some as their
Lord, some as their Friend; some as their Brother, and some as their Lover.
From these initial differences in their ways of loving Him arise different
types of saints, for whom He provides many mansions in His House. In the
home in Bethany, for instance, Martha loved Him in one way, while her
sister Mary Magdalen loved Him in another way. St. Luke has given us a very
vivid account of these sisters:
"Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town; and
a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a
sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word.
"But Martha was busy about much serving, and she stood and said: Lord, hast
thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her
therefore, that she help me. And the Lord, answering, said to her: Martha,
Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things. But one thing
is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away
Both Martha and Mary are saints, but the former served Jesus as her Lord,
while the latter loved Him as her heart's adored. In the Feast of Life
there are many dishes, and each of us will have to choose for himself, but
there is no question that Mary Magdalen chose the best dish.
What a great lover Mary Magdalen was can be gathered from another account
of her in St. Luke's Gospel:
One of the Pharisees asked him to dinner, and entering the house of the
Pharisee he reclined at table. Now there was a woman in the town who was a
sinner, and when she found out that Jesus was at table in the house of the
Pharisee, she brought an alabaster flask of perfume and stood behind him at
his feet in tears; as her tears began to wet his feet, she wiped them with
the hair of her head, pressed kisses on them, and anointed them with the
When his host the Pharisee noticed this, he said to himself, "If he was a
prophet, he would know what sort of a woman this is who is touching him;
for she is a sinner." Then Jesus addressed him. "Simon," he said "I have
something to say to you." "Speak, teacher," he said. "There was a
moneylender who had two debtors; one owed him fifty pounds, the other five.
As they were unable to pay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, now,
which of them will love him most?"
"I suppose," said Simon, "the man who was most forgiven." "Quite right," He
said. Then turning to the woman he said to Simon, "You see this woman? When
I came to your house, you never gave me water for my feet, while she has
wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair; you never gave me
a kiss, while ever since she came in she has kept pressing kisses on my
feet; you never anointed my head with oil, while she has anointed my feet
with perfume. Therefore I tell you many as her sins are, they are forgiven,
for her love is great; whereas he to whom little is forgiven has but little
Jesus appreciated the love of Mary Magdalen so deeply that after His
Resurrection it was to her that He made the first appearance!
But why have I dwelt so long upon Mary Magdalene? Because she is the
prototype of Therese of Lisieux. She knew the art of love. Having given
all, she feels as though she had given nothing. Therese herself has said,
"Most of all do I imitate the behavior of Magdalene, for her amazing--or
rather I should say her loving--audacity, which delighted the Heart of
Jesus, has cast its spell upon mine.
LOVE: NATURAL AND DIVINE
Like Magdalen, Therese loves Jesus as her Betrothed. With touching
candidness she writes, "Eight days after I had taken the veil our cousin
Jeanne was married to Dr. La Neele, and at her next visit I heard of all
the little attentions she lavished on her husband. I was greatly impressed,
and I determined it should never be said that a woman in the world did more
for her husband than I for my Beloved. Filled with fresh ardor, I strove
with increased earnestness to please my Heavenly Spouse, the King of kings,
who had deigned to honor me by a divine alliance."
In a letter to her sister, Celine, she says, "Let us make of our heart a
garden of delights, where our sweet Savior may come for repose; let us
plant therein beautiful lilies of purity, for we are virgins . . . and then
let us not forget that 'virginity is a complete indifference to all earthly
cares; not only to useless care, but to all cares . . .' "
Elsewhere she says, "The great Saints have worked for the glory of God, but
I, who am only a very little soul, I work for His pleasure alone. I wish to
be, in the hands of the good God, a floweret, a rose of no use, but of
which the sight and fragrance will nevertheless be to Him a refreshment, a
little joy superadded." One seems to hear the voice of Magdalen herself.
It often occurs to me that a woman's love, as a rule, is deeper and more
constant than that of a man. For, as Laurence Housman so fairly puts it,
"O! a man's love is strong
When fain he comes a-mating.
But a woman's love is long
And grows when it is waiting."
Woman is not only more patient, but has also a greater capacity for
suffering and self-sacrifice. No one has depicted her lot better than John
"I know a woman's portion when she loves,
It's here to give, my darling, not to take;
It isn't lockets, dear, nor pairs of gloves,
It isn't marriage bells nor wedding cake,
It's up and cook, although the belly ache;
And bear the child, and up and work again,
And count a sick man's grumble with the pain."
If only a woman would turn her natural capacity for unselfish love from man
to God, she would already be at the very portals of Heaven.
Therese was born with a genius for love, extraordinary even for a woman.
Her affection for her parents, her sisters, her cousins, and her neighbors,
was as deep as it was strong. Her sympathy for the poor, her compassion for
sinners, revealed itself early in life. She had a heart on fire with love,
and she was destined to be united with God.
Even as a child, she was conscious of her high destiny, but she was not
proud, because she knew that her high destiny was a free gift from her
Lover. She was as humble as she was gifted. Nature and grace conspired
together to make a great saint of little Therese, for nature prepared her
to be a great lover and grace led her to love the Holy Face. It was not
Jesus transfigured on the Mount of Tabor, it was Jesus on His way to
Calvary, that especially captivated her soul. As she said, "My devotion to
the Holy Face, or rather all my piety, has been based on these words of
"There is no beauty nor comeliness in him; we have seen him, and there was
no sightliness in him . . . Despised and most abject of men, a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity; his face was as it were hidden and
despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. I too desire to be without glory
or beauty, 'to tread the winepress alone,' unknown by any creature."
This confession is of paramount importance, for it seems to me to
constitute the keynote of her character. I even think that there is a tinge
of chivalry in her love of Jesus. "For many serve Him when He gives them
consolation, but few consent to bear Him company when he sleeps on the
storm-tossed waves, or when He suffers in the garden of Gethsemani. Who,
then, will serve Jesus for Himself? Ah! it shall be Therese."
What a gallant lover this woman was! It was St. Francis de Sales who said,
"Love equalizes lovers"; and I have a suspicion that Jesus appreciates
loving audacity much more than cold courtesy on the part of His friends.
Therese called her Divine Spouse a thief, a fool, a blind lover who is
ignorant of arithmetic; and Jesus loved her all the more, because on the
lips of little Therese, they were terms of endearment.
How deeply she felt for Jesus can be inferred from a little anecdote.
Someone gave her a crucifix. She kissed it with tenderness, and said, "He
is dead. I like it better when He is represented as dead, because then I
think that he suffers no more." Only a woman could have felt that way.
SINCERITY AS THE SOUL OF LOVE
Therese loves her Divine Spouse for His own sake, not for the sake of His
diamonds. All that she desires is to rejoice the Heart of Jesus. She wins
Him by her secret caresses, for she knows that He is a bashful Bridegroom
who would blush at caresses too dramatically performed. She gently
insinuates herself into His Heart, until she knows all its ins and outs.
The wise serpent that she is, she bores sinuously into the deepest recesses
of the Sacred Heart of her Beloved, and yet she never wearies Him by
overloading Him with attentions. She holds Him by not using any ropes or
"hoops of steel." She even confirms this to Mother Mary:
All that He hath given me may Jesus take again,
O tell Him, Mother, ne'er to feel in aught constrained with me;
He may hide Him if He will, in peace shall I remain
Till the Day that knows no setting, when faith shall cease to be.
These lines are so touching that I want to reproduce here the French
"Tout ce quil ma donne, Jesus peut le reprendre, Dis-lui de ne jamais se
gener avec moi; Il peut bien se cacher, je consens a l'attendre Jusquau
jour sans couchant ou s'eteindra ma foi."
This was written when she felt Jesus was far away from her. But love has
hopes unknown even to faith. She knew Him too well to fear that He would
ever desert her. The subtle child wrote to her sister Pauline, "The glory
of Jesus, that is my whole ambition; my own I abandon to Him, and if He
seem to forget me--well, He is free to do so, since I am mine no more, but
His. He will weary sooner of making me wait than I of waiting for Him!"
Not that she relies upon her own charms, but that she has a boundless
confidence in His goodness. The Almighty is incapable of being unfaithful
to His lovers. Just because the little Therese did not want any reward, how
amply He has rewarded her! She did not want to shine like jades and resound
like bells. She wished to be an obscure grain of sand, too small to be
trodden upon even by the feet of men she wished to remain a hidden flower
whose fragrance is for Him alone.
But He is not to be outdone in generosity. He has transformed the grain of
sand into a radiant star gleaming with a thousand fires; he has filled the
whole universe with the fragrance of the little fugitive flower. One
wonders what she feels now. I should think that she would still feel as she
did when she was on earth, "I am but a tiny soul whom Almighty God has
loaded with His favors--Still I cannot boast. See how this evening the
tree-tops are gilded by the setting sun. So likewise my soul appears to you
all shining and golden because it is exposed to the rays of Love. But
should the divine Sun no longer shine, it would instantly be sunk in
Is this false modesty? No, she is only telling the truth and nothing but
the truth. Any one who knows the power and love of God as intimately as she
does, any one who has a glimpse into the infinite greatness of God and his
own nothingness, simply can no longer boast, even if he would.
GOD AS A LOVER
I sometimes think of God as a Lover who knows how to tease. For it
frequently happens that if you want a thing, He will purposely hold it back
from you, and if you do not want a thing, He will purposely give it to you.
Like all true lovers, He wants to know whether your love for Him is genuine
and pure. But unlike other lovers, He can never be deceived by any
insincere manifestations of love. The slightest intention of self-seeking
will estrange Him. If He really seeks you out, He will send trial after
trial until you are completely emancipated from all earthly ties and
But Therese was such a teachable child that for her a whispered hint was
enough where for others God would have had to send thunderous warnings, if
not hailstorms. She turned every little experience of her brief life to
good account. Her mind was like an extremely sensitive film that records
the slightest movement of grace. No lesson was lost on her. She was so
thoroughly saturated with the Holy Spirit that everything became for her a
parable of the Truth and a symbol of Love. In twenty-four years she learned
more about God than mankind has been able to do in twenty centuries.
Indeed, as she says, "Love can take the place of a long life."
"It seems to me that the good God has no need of years to accomplish His
work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, cause
His flower to blossom for eternity."
How many of us, for instance, have been emancipated from the dominion of
that hydra-headed monster called Public Opinion? But little Therese killed
the monster at the very first encounter when she was sixteen. Here is what
a Sister records about her:
It often happened that painful remedies had to be applied to her side, and
one day, having suffered from them more than usual, she was resting in her
cell during recreation, when she overheard a Sister in the kitchen saying:
"Soeur Therese will not live long, and really I wonder sometimes what our
Mother Prioress will find to say about her when she dies. She will be
greatly puzzled, for though the little Sister is very good she has
certainly never done anything worth speaking about."
The infirmarian, who had also overheard what was said, turned to the Saint
and remarked: "If you relied on the opinion of creatures you would
certainly be disillusioned to-day."
"The opinion of creatures!" she replied "happily God has given me the grace
to be absolutely indifferent to it. Let me tell you something that showed
me once and for all how much it is worth. A few days after my clothing I
went to our Mother's room. 'Mother', remarked a lay-sister who happened to
be there, 'this novice certainly does you credit. How well she looks! I
hope she may long be able to observe the Rule.'
I was feeling really pleased at the compliment when another Sister came in,
and looking at me, said: 'Poor Soeur Therese, how very tired you look, you
quite alarm me. If you continue like this I am afraid you will not be able
to keep the Rule very long.' I was then only sixteen, but the incident made
such an impression on me, that I never again set store on the variable
opinion of creatures."
Confucius once said, "He who feels no irritation when others misunderstand
him,--is he not a gentleman?" But this is easier said than done. Only
when one is completely attached to God can one achieve a complete
detachment from the world and from one's self. Little Therese, whose great
passion was the love of God, could afford to disregard all other things.
All her virtues are streamlets flowing from one living Fountain. Happy soul
who could say, "Our Lord's will fills my heart to the brim, and if anything
else be added it cannot penetrate to any depth, but, like oil on the
surface of limpid waters, glides easily across. If my heart were not
already brimming over, if it needed to be filled by the feelings of joy and
sadness that follow each other so rapidly, then indeed it would be flooded
by bitter sorrow; but these quick-succeeding changes scarcely ruffle the
surface of my soul, and in its depths there reigns a peace that nothing can
The Martyrdom Of Love
The more I study the character of Therese, the more she fascinates me, and
the more I adore that supreme Artist of Souls, Jesus. What a remarkable
girl she must have been who could write at fifteen words like these: "Love
can do all things. The most impossible tasks seem to it easy and sweet. You
know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our
actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.
What, then, have we to fear?"
This reminds me of a Chinese proverb: "So long as man and wife love each
other, what if they are beggars together?" For the sake of her Divine
Spouse, she was willing to suffer any form of martyrdom and reckon it as
nothing. To her, life becomes a continual martyrdom, a great bundle of
little sacrifices. She wants to be a martyr without appearing to be one.
Her heroism reaches such a height that it no longer seems heroic but quite
ordinary. She has, by precept and example, deepened, subtilized, and
broadened the idea of martyrdom, and she has achieved it for herself and
for other souls by subordinating everything to Love. "Far from being like
to those great souls who, from their childhood, practice all sorts of
macerations, I made my mortification consist solely of breaking my will,
keeping back a word of retort, rendering little services without making
much of them, and a thousand other things of this kind."
With her, martyrdom is not simply to be beheaded or to face the firing
squad, or even to jump into boiling oil. Such opportunities are, after all,
very rare, and given only to the privileged few. But there is the daily
life to live; and as love feeds on sacrifices, it would be starved to death
if we should wait for chances of making big sacrifices. In her hands, our
everyday life acquires a new dignity and a new meaning. What George Herbert
had sung she put into practice:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws, Makes that and th'action fine.
For God really does not need our sacrifices, they are useful only as proofs
of our love for Him. If we love Him with a burning passion and single-
hearted devotion, everything we do or refrain from doing, every word we
speak or refrain from speaking, becomes a little sacrifice, which may be
likened to a fragrant flower, because we offer it with a cheerful
countenance and a sweet smile that captivate the Heart of God.
There is a Chinese saying: "If you fail in painting a tiger, the result is
liable to turn out a dog; whereas if you fail in carving a swan, the result
may at least resemble a duck." It is safer for little souls to imitate
little Therese, than to imitate the giant saints of yore. For the swan and
the duck are birds of one feather; while the tiger and the dog, according
to our Chinese notion, belong to entirely different orders.
And after all, is our blood so valuable that it can add anything to the
Blood of Christ? What does a tiny little drop mean to an infinite ocean?
And yet, when necessary, our blood is useful as a humble token of our love
for God, but only as a token and not as an end in itself. In other words,
the Martyrdom of Love absorbs all other forms of sacrifice and
mortification and adds something new, over and above. "Many make themselves
victims to Justice, while none think of making themselves victims to love."
Needless to say, she was not the first to practice this form of martyrdom.
All saints are more or less martyrs of love. But there is no denying that
she or rather the Holy Spirit working in her brought this fundamental
aspect of Christian doctrine to an intenser focus and clearer articulation.
Sanctity is like a pyramid. The higher the apex, the broader the base, and
the larger the bulk. The pyramid of Therese has Love for its apex, Nature
for its base, and all the circumstances of our everyday life for its bulk.
With her the greatest simplicity goes hand in hand with the greatest
diversity By embracing the One, she embraces all!
In a truly remarkable essay on "What Religion Means to Me," Madame Chiang
Kai-shek has presented the nature of Christian simplicity in a nutshell.
"Life is really simple, and yet how confused we make it. In old Chinese
art, there is just one outstanding object, perhaps a flower, on a scroll.
Everything else in the picture is subordinated to that one beautiful thing.
An integrated life is like that. What is that one flower? As I feel it now,
it is the will of God." I quote these words, because they seem to fit the
life of Therese like a glove.
"A BABY WHO IS AN OLD MAN"
Her life was not a simple melody, but a marvelous symphony. If she is a
child, she is a subtle one. If she is as simple as a dove, she is also as
wise as a serpent. Her little way of spiritual childhood is really the most
mature way, and she seems to be aware of it. During her serious illness,
she once said, "Let God play the part of Papa; he knows what is best for
Her eldest sister Marie asked her, "Are you a baby?" Therese looked serious
and said, "Yes,--but a very wise baby! A baby who is an old man."
Is she then proud? No, no one realizes better than she where all her wisdom
comes from. "My special favorites in Heaven are those who, so to speak,
stole it, such as the Holy Innocents and the Good Thief. There are great
Saints who won it by their works. I want to be like the thieves and to win
it by stratagem--a stratagem of love which will open its gates to me and to
other poor sinners. In the Book of Proverbs the Holy Ghost encourages me,
saying: 'Come to Me, little one, to learn subtlety!'"
The charming thing about it is that it is an open theft. God allows her to
steal into Heaven because she allows God to steal herself. "How willingly
would I help the 'Divine Thief' to come and steal me. I see him in the
distance, and I take good care not to cry out, 'Stop, Thief!' On the
contrary, I call Him, saying 'This way, this way!'"
Lao Tzu said, "Established Virtue looks like a thief." I suspect that
there is something thievish, illusive or paradoxical about the Spirit of
Truth, and perhaps that is why all His children are, as Paul says, "as
deceivers and yet true; as unknown as yet known; as dying and behold we
live; as chastised and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as
needy, yet enriching many; as having nothing and possessing all things."
The subtlest truths can only be felt or experienced, but cannot be reasoned
about, still less talked about. Therese the subtle child knows it. "It is
related in the Lives of the Fathers of the Desert that one of them
converted a public sinner whose misdeeds had scandalized the entire
country. Touched by grace, this sinful woman was following the saint into
the desert, there to do rigorous penance, when, on the first night of her
journey, before she had even reached the place of her retreat, the links of
life's chain were broken by the vehemence of loving contrition. The holy
hermit at the same time saw her soul borne by angels into the bosom of God.
That is a most striking illustration of what I would express, but these
things are beyond words."
Her mind is truly like Providence in a watchful state. It is not she, but
the Holy Ghost that is speaking through her.
The progress of psychology in our age has made man self-aware to a degree
never before reached.
The remedy is not to return to unconsciousness, which is impossible, but to
go a step forward until we find God in the most secret chamber of our
heart. To cure ourselves of urbanity, it is useless to dream of returning
to the country. Even if we should go to the country, we would still carry
the city with us. We have already gone too far to retrace our steps. We
must be so urbane that we become citizens of the City of God, which exists
before both the city and the country ever did.
My only wish is to see people so thoroughly sophisticated as to be aware of
the utter worthlessness of their sophistication, so thoroughly skeptical as
to be able to doubt their own doubts, and so thoroughly disillusioned as
not to fall in love with their own disillusionment, but with something
greater than themselves.
J. W. N. Sullivan says in his Limitations of Science: "Certainly the most
significant factor in the development from amoeba to man seems to us to
have been the increase in consciousness." "The great artist, painter, poet,
or musician, makes us aware as we have never been aware before. He extends
and subtilizes certain elements of our experience and so gives us greater
knowledge and mastery of life."
To my mind, Therese is so significant to the spiritual life of our age,
precisely because she is a saint fully aware of her mental states. She is
charmingly subtle and subtly charming. She is ingenuously ingenious, and
she is holy. She is as complicated as she is simple. She is delicately
audacious, and audaciously delicate. She has the head of a witch, and the
heart of an angel. She is as flexible as water, and as passionate as fire.
She is a genius who knows how to hide her genius gracefully. She knows the
masculine, but keeps to the feminine. She is as sharp as a two-edged
sword, but she always keeps her sword in its scabbard. She was a precocious
child; but she pasteurized her precocity by always remaining like a hidden
sprout and not rushing to early ripening. Even now, after she has become a
veritable prodigy of miracles, she is still a hidden sprout at heart; and,
in spiritual things, as we know, a sincere disposition of heart is all that
matters. I think that now more than ever she has realized the truth of what
she said before she had shed her mortal coils, "It is Jesus who does all,
and I . . . I do nothing."
I suppose that Lao Tzu would have said, "It is the Tao (the Word) that does
all, and I . . . I do nothing." But the Tao is such an impersonal entity
that it appears to me to be of the ice, icy: whereas Jesus is such a living
flame of love that He enkindles every fibber of my heart.
To me as a Chinese, the great thing about Christianity is that it combines
the profound mysticism of Lao Tzu with the intense humanism of Confucius.
It differs from Taoism in that the Tao or the Word has taken on flesh and a
warm pulsating heart. It differs from Confucianism in that it is the Word,
and nothing short of the Word, that has done so.
Confucius said, "One who has given offense to God prays in vain.'' Lao
Tzu said, "Why did the ancients prize the Tao? Is it not because, through
It, whoever seeks finds, and whoever is guilty is relieved of punishment?"
The Confucian idea of God is personal but narrow, while the Taoistic idea
is broad but impersonal. In my humble opinion, God is more than a Person,
and for that very reason He is capable of assuming a Personality. Those who
think otherwise seem to place themselves above God. They presume that they
alone can possess personalities, but not God.
Only Christianity can satisfy my mind completely, because its idea of God
is at once broad and personal. And it is Therese who has confirmed my faith
in my Religion, for her mind is as subtle and detached as that of Lao Tzu,
while her heart is as affectionate and cordial as that of Confucius.
EMANCIPATION THROUGH LOVE
By choosing to be a willing captive of Love, she becomes as free as a bird
in the air. As she grew more attached to her Bridegroom, she became more
and more detached from everything else. From her early childhood she
possessed a deep insight into "the hollowness of things that pass
away." "Was Jesus not my only friend?" she wrote about her early days: "To
Him alone could I open my heart. All conversation with creatures, even on
holy subjects, wearied me. True, sometimes I felt sad because of the
indifference shown me, but I would console myself by repeating this line
from a beautiful poem Papa often recited for us:
'Time is thy barque and not thy home'." Thus, she looked at the world
"sub specie eternitatis" (in the light of eternity). This general outlook
on life prepared her for detachment from particular things, however much
she might be affected toward them in her heart. She detached herself
successively from dependence upon creatures, from love of the beauties of
Nature, from the allurements of Art, and from the possessive instinct, not
only in regard to material things, but also in connection with what she
calls "spiritual riches."
"If I had been rich, it would have been impossible for me to have seen a
poor hungry man without giving him straightway something of my goods. So
also in the measure that I gain my spiritual treasure, I at the same
instant think of those souls who are in danger of falling into hell, and I
give them all I possess, and I have never yet found the moment in which I
could say: 'Now I am going to work for myself'.
A novice has recorded a little anecdote about her: "I was regretting a pin
which I had been asked for, and which I had found most useful. 'How rich
you are,' she said, 'you will never be happy'!"
What volumes of meaning are contained in this gentle reproach! A person may
be rich with a pin, but poor with a million. So long as one is not
spiritually detached from matter, the possession of a single pin would bar
him from the highest Heaven. On the other hand, if one regards matter as
only a means of helping others, the possession of even the whole world
could do no harm to his soul, for he is still "poor in spirit." To another
novice, she expounded her doctrine of empty-handedness:
"There is but one means to compelling God not to judge us: we must take
care to appear before Him empty-handed. It is quite simple: lay nothing by,
spend your treasures as fast as you gain them. Were I to live to be eighty,
I should always be poor, because I cannot economize. All my earnings are
immediately spent on the ransom of souls. Were I to await the hour of death
to tender my trifling coins, Our Lord would not fail to discover in them
some base metal, and they would certainly have to be refined in
According to her, one must be detached even from one's religious exercises:
"You ought to detach yourself from your own personal labors,
conscientiously spending on them the time prescribed, but with perfect
freedom of heart. We read that the Israelites, while building the walls of
Jerusalem, worked with one hand and held a sword in the other. This is an
image of what we should do: avoid being absorbed in our work."
Is this not what Lao Tzu meant when he said: "Do your work without setting
any store by it?" What the hoary philosopher of China learned from the
experience of a long life the green maid of France learned from the School
of Love. Love, generous love that knows no measure, set her free and gave
wings to her soul. "O my little sister," she said to Celine, "let us be
detached from earth. Let us hover over the Mount of Love, where dwells the
beautiful Lily of our souls. Let us detach ourselves from the consolations
of Jesus, that we may be attached to Him alone!"
In her hands, detachment has reached a heroic degree. I have an impression
that she is detached even from the idea of detachment! The fact is that she
is detached even from herself. "That which concerns Therese," she said, "is
to abandon herself, to surrender herself completely." And as she has
immolated herself, there is nothing to which even the idea of detachment
can be attached. She is a vessel, pure and simple, of the Holy Ghost,
that's all. God alone has taught his little spouse "to scale the sublime
heights of perfection with the agility of a fawn!"
Therese has not superseded the other saints, but she has brought sanctity
up to date. She is a revolutionary who knows how to effect reforms by way
of transformation. The Holy Catholic Church is a living organism, it grows
with the centuries, and our twentieth century, which may be called the age
of psychological subtlety, has need of a saint like Therese, for she is one
of the keenest psychologists and the most ruthless analysts that I know of.
In her hands, sanctity is no longer merely sublime, it has seeped down like
water into the subliminal regions.
The Holy Ghost has always raised new saints to forestall and cope with the
needs of a new age. It was no accident that in the sixteenth century, the
age of dawning individualism, He raised Teresa of Avila, a woman who was a
man. Nor is it for nothing that this time He has raised "a baby who is an
old man." For our century is an old man who wants very much to be a baby,
and the little Therese has shown the way. Sensitive, intuitive,
paradoxical, humorous, subtle, flexible and ethereal, she did for spiritual
life what some of the greatest contemporary minds have done in their own
spheres of activity.
THE ART OF LIFE
When the Little Flower was in Rome, she made a visit to the famous cemetery
"Campo Santo." She has left us a beautiful word-picture of the place:
The "Campo Santo" filled us with rapture. The whole vast enclosure is
covered with marble statues so exquisitely carved as to make one fancy that
the chisel of genius has actually imparted life. The apparent negligence
with which these wonders of art are everywhere scattered is but an
additional charm. Their expression, too, so perfectly portrays a calm and
Christian sorrow, that one is almost tempted to console them. Here it is a
child throwing flowers on its father's grave, and as the delicate petals
seem to fall through its fingers, the solid nature of the marble is
forgotten. Elsewhere a widow's light veil, and the ribbons that bind some
young maiden's tresses, appear to float at the bidding of the breeze.
What genius had done to those marble statues, the Divine Sculptor was to do
to her character. At first glance, she, too, appears "to float at the
bidding of the breeze," but in reality no one could be more solid than this
"Little White Flower" of Jesus.
It was her hard living that made her so easy to live with. If Therese had
been a member of the home in Bethany, she would have served Jesus as
carefully as Martha did and at the same time cast furtive glances at Him to
see whether He was completely happy with Magdalen sitting at His feet.
She would also have loved her sister all the more for having loved Jesus so
much. This I infer from what she said herself, "If, by an impossibility,
God Himself did not perceive my good acts, I should not be troubled. I love
Him so much that I would give Him pleasure by my love and my little
sacrifices without His perceiving that they come from me. Seeing and
knowing, He is, so to speak, obliged to make me a recompense . . . and I
would not put Him to that trouble!"
The heavier her tasks, the more cheerful she would have appeared. How easy
it is to overlook solid virtue hidden beneath an exterior of charming
In the art of letters, it is said that hard writing makes easy reading. For
true profundity looks limpid. The azure sky is unfathomable, and yet how
clear it looks! Justice Holmes, for instance, was not only a great jurist
but also a great writer. Justice Frankfurter once wrote about his judicial
writings, "In their impact and sweep and freshness, his opinions have been
a superb vehicle for the views they embody. It all seems so easy . . .
brilliant birds pulled from the magician's sleeve . . . but it is the
delusive ease of great effort as well as great art."
Holmes himself wrote to me about style in writing, "When you read Tennyson
you feel that he has been carefully searching for the exquisite. When you
read Shakespeare you feel as if the splendid speech came without effort,
because that was the way he wanted to talk. Stevenson searches for a happy
word. Kipling rips an unusual word out of the bowels of the dictionary, and
on his lips it sounds as natural as slang."
Indeed, the greatest art is to conceal art. On the other hand, there is a
great deal of truth in what Popocurante in Voltaire's "Candide" remarked "a
propos" a concert: "This noise is amusing for half an hour; but if it last
longer, it wearies everybody although nobody dares to say so. Music
nowadays is merely the art of executing difficulties, and in the end that
which is only difficult ceases to please. Perhaps I should like the opera
more if they had not made it a monster which revolts me."
What is true of music, sculpture and writing is also true of the Art of
Life. No one could be more fastidious than little Therese in observing the
severe Rule of the Carmel. And yet she always appeared light-hearted and
contented. As her sisters have testified, "She always appeared gracious and
smilingly cheerful, and unless one knew her more intimately, one might
imagine that she pursued an easy path full of consolations. This is how it
is that many who read her life do not discern the meaning of her smile:
they overlook the cross so carefully hidden under the flowers."
In a very real sense, to take the holy order or to enter a Carmel is
already martyrdom. What bigger offerings can one make than to sacrifice all
the pleasures of the world and cut off all earthly ties for the sake of
God? That Therese did not regard her vocation as a sacrifice but a
privilege did not make it less a sacrifice in the accepted sense of the
But how shallow are the hearts of men, and how easily taken in are their
Even now, as Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey says, some people still imagine
that our sweet saint lived her Carmelite life a nightingale in a grove,
singing of our Lord's tenderness to her and of her own love for Him. She
is, indeed, like a nightingale, but let us not forget that, like a
nightingale, she sings with her throat against a thorn! "Should my roses be
gathered from amid thorns," she says, "I will sing notwithstanding, and the
longer and the sharper the thorns, the sweeter will grow my song."
On one occasion a Sister remarked to little Therese, "They say that you
have never suffered much." With a smile she pointed to a glass which
contained some medicine of a bright red color. "Do you see this little
glass?" she said. "One would suppose it contained a most delicious draught,
whereas in reality it is more bitter than anything I take. Well, it is the
image of my life. To others it has been all rose color; they imagine that I
have drunk of a most delicious wine, but to me it has been full of
bitterness. I say bitterness, yet, after all, my life has not been sad,
because I have learned to find joy and sweetness in all that is bitter."
I think this is the fullest self-revelation Therese has given us in a
moment of self-forgetfulness. It allows us to have some glimpse into her
evasive personality. I seem to see three different layers in her wonderful
soul. The layer that lies nearest to the surface is symbolized by her sweet
smile. To all appearances, she is a carefree sprite! This aspect of her
puts me in mind of a poem by Tu Fu:
Rows upon rows of flowers
In the little garden of Madame Huang!
All the branches are heavy-laden
With the countless clusters of flowers
The carefree butterflies loiter around them,
And start dancing from time to time.
The lovely orioles are intoxicated with freedom. "Cheerio, cheerio!" they
But probe a little deeper, and you come to the second layer, the layer
which is composed of bitterness and sandy desolation. It makes me think of
an autumnal song by Hsin Ch'i-chi:
When I was young and a stranger to Sorrow,
I loved to gaze from a high terrace:
I loved to gaze from a high terrace
To give my new poems a spice of Sorrow.
Now I have drained Sorrow to the bottom,
I can find no words for it:
I can find no words for it,
But merely say, "What a nice cool Autumn!"
What pathos, what desolation, what loneliness, what macerations of the
heart are revealed by this second stanza, which borders almost on silence!
And this is exactly what I find in the second layer of the soul of Therese.
But, my patient reader, let us probe yet a little deeper, and we shall find
in the depths of her soul a fathomless tranquillity and serenity,
completely unruffled by all the stormy disturbances she experienced a
little higher up in her extremely sensitive mind. It is here that we find
the hidden Fountain of her joy, a joy that filters patiently through a
sandy strata and issues finally in distilled smiles and sometimes even in
spontaneous spurts of congenial humor.
Without the sandy strata, the smile would not be so pure and sweet. Without
the hidden Fountain of joy, the smile would have been pathetic, like the
silver lining of a black coffin, or like the hysterical laughter of a mad
person. But having both the sandy strata and the Fountain of joy within
her, she is at once inebriated and sober! And she is aware of it herself.
"Deep down in my soul there is, I own, a joy and transports of delight."
With what moderation and mellowness she owns her secret joy! In her little
bosom are borne the sorrows of all time and the joy of eternity.
THE LOGIC OF LOVE
I confess that at times I am astonished by some of the lightning-like
flashes of St. Therese's insight. But no one could be more astonished than
herself. "Since I have taken up my position in the arms of Jesus, I am like
a watchman observing the enemy from the highest tower of a fortress.
Nothing escapes me; often I am astonished at seeing so clearly."
Hers is a humility that is not only felt by the heart but founded upon the
solid knowledge of her own nothingness apart from her Lover. She felt and
thought with constant reference to God. Her vision was so clear that she
had to resort to parables. Here is one of them that a Sister has scribbled
down for us :
She often spoke to me of a well-known toy with which she had amused herself
when a child. This was the kaleidoscope, shaped like a small telescope,
through which, as it is made to revolve, one perceives an endless variety
of pretty, colored figures.
"This toy," she said, "excited my admiration, and for a long time I
wondered what could produce so charming a phenomenon. One day, however, a
careful examination showed that it consisted simply of tiny bits of paper
and cloth scattered inside. Further scrutiny revealed three mirrors inside
the tube, and the problem was solved. It became for me the illustration of
a great truth.
"So long as our actions, even the most trivial, remain within love's
kaleidoscope, the Blessed Trinity, figured by the three mirrors, imparts to
them a wonderful brightness and beauty. The eyepiece is Jesus Christ, and
He, looking from outside through Himself into the kaleidoscope, finds all
our work perfect. But, should we leave that ineffable abode of love, He
would see nothing but the worthless chaff of worthless deeds."
Love opened the eyes of little Therese to new truths and new reasons for
loving Jesus. She was not such a great sinner as Magdalen, and, logically
speaking, she did not need as much forgiveness from God as Magdalen. But
does it follow that she loved Him the less? No, on the contrary, she loved
Him all the more. Love has its own logic that mathematicians have no notion
"I love Him," she reasoned, "because He has forgiven me, not much, but
all." "He has forgiven me beforehand the sins which I could have
She seems to know by intuition what very few theologians have arrived at by
their long-winded reasonings. St. Thomas Aquinas had, indeed, pointed out
that it is "also a divine benefit that God should keep a man from sins,
just as He forgives his past sins." St. Augustine had also confessed, "I
put it down to Your grace and mercy that You melted the ice of my sins; I
put it down to Your grace also all the sins that I did not, that I could
not, commit." But little Therese went a step further than these great
lights of the Church! She spoke, not in terms of "also," but in terms of
"all the more"; and she gave us a very simple illustration of this deep
Let us suppose that the son of a very clever doctor, stumbling over a stone
on the road, falls and breaks his leg. His father hastens to his aid, and
binds up the fractured limb with all the skill at his command. When cured,
the son shows the utmost gratitude . . . and with good reason.
But, on the other hand, suppose that the father, knowing that a large stone
lies on his son's path, anticipates the danger, and, unseen by anyone,
hastens to remove it. Unconscious of the accident from which such tender
forethought has saved him, the son will not show any mark of gratitude for
it, or feel the same love for his father as he would have done had he been
cured of some grievous wound. But if he came to learn the whole truth,
would he not love his father all the more?
I can imagine Jesus putting His hand gently on her shoulder and saying,
"The truth is that you, My dear child, love Me, and want to love Me as I
have never been loved before; and you are never at a loss to find reasons
in justification of your love. What a subtle logician love has made of My
LIFE AND DEATH
With a faith enlivened by such intense love and enlightened by such a
transparent vision, it is no wonder that she even conquered death before
she died. When a Sister asked her permission to weep upon her death, she
said in tender reproach, "You will be bewailing my happiness"! When the
Chaplain asked her, "Are you quite resigned to die?" she answered with a
gentle retort, "Ah! my Father, I am even resigned to live! To die, that is
the joy I would experience." She actually rose above life and death:
"What matters it then whether life or death? My only joy is to love Thee."
This was possible because she had attained a spiritual state where her own
will was merged into the Will of God. "I do not like one thing better than
another; what the good God likes best and chooses for me, that it is which
pleases me most."
During the last months of her life she said something, which touches the
very core of my heart: "Suppose that the good God should say to me, 'If you
die now you shall have a very high degree of glory; if you die at eighty
years of age your glory shall be much less, but the pleasure to Me far
greater.' Oh, then I would not hesitate to reply, 'My God, I wish to die at
eighty, for I do not seek my glory, but only Thy pleasure'." Her love for
God is generous to such a degree that she is even willing to sacrifice
Heaven for His sake, if this were indeed possible.
She would now be sixty-eight, if she had lived. She would be quite happy in
remaining a hidden flower in the Carmel of Lisieux, unknown of men. But God
wanted her to go back to Him at the age of twenty-four, and make a great
saint of her. Is she resting in the arms of her Beloved now? No, for "souls
on fire cannot remain inactive." She wished to spend her heaven in doing
good upon earth. Her mission is just beginning. "There can be no rest for
me," she says, "until the end of the world. But when the angel shall have
said: 'Time is no more!' then I shall rest, then I shall be able to
rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete."
In heaven as on earth, the Little Flower of Jesus loves Him with such an
abysmal love that she feels her own love is not enough. She wants millions
and millions of other souls to love Him as she does. "I invite all the
angels and saints to come and sing canticles of love." Even were the whole
of creation to participate one day in the living concert of love, she would
hardly think of it as more than a tiny drop of water lost in the Infinite
Ocean of Divine Love. She would still feel as a little child towards its
Who says that the heart of an inch-long grass
Can ever requite the full splendors of a whole
1. One of China's most brilliant legal minds, Dr. Wu is also a noted
scholar and the author of many well-known books, both legal and literary.
Although only 42, he has held among other, during a distinguished public
career, the posts of President of the Provisional Court (1929); Adviser on
Municipal Affairs to the Shanghai Municipal Council (1931)- and was Vice-
Chairman of the Commission for Drafting a Permanent Constitution of China.
He has been a Member of the Legislative Yuan since 1933, and is,
concurrently, the Chairman of the Law Codification Committee of the
Legislative Yuan and Chief of the Editorial Department of the Sun Yat-sen
Institute for the Advancement of Culture and Education.
He first studied law at the Comparative Law School of China at Shanghai,
graduating with honors in 1921 with an L. B. Then he entered the University
of Michigan, U.S.A., receiving his J. D. degree in 1922. His work was
rewarded by a traveling fellowship in international law, given by the
Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. This carried him to the
University of the Sorbonne, and later, the University of Berlin.
He resigned the Presidency of the Provisional Court to prepare lectures to
be delivered at Northwestern University Law School, Chicago, as a holder of
the Rosenthal Foundation Lectureship. He also accepted an invitation to
join the faculty of the Harvard Law School as a lecturer on comparative
law. The illness of his wife prevented him from carrying it out and he
returned to China in 1930.
2. Eckermann, "Conversations with Goethe" (Everyman's Library), p. 423.
3. "Saint Therese of Lisieux: An Autobiography," translated by Rev. Thomas
N. Taylor (Burns, Oates and Washbourne, London), p. 268.
In the notes to this essay, this book will be cited as "Autobiography".
4. "The First Epistle to the Corinthians," Chapter XIII.
5. This passage I have translated from "Sainte Therese de l'Enfant-Jesus:
Histoire d'une Ame" (Imprimerie St. Paul, Bar-le-Duc), p. 208.
6. See "Matthew, XII. 48-50 (Vulgate)
7. The Gospel According to St. Luke, 10:38-42.
8. Ibid. 7: 36-47.
9. "Autobiography," p. 194.
10. Ibid. p. 137.
11. "The Spirit of St. Therese de l'Enfant-Jesus" (Burns, Oates and
Washbourne, London), p. 93-4. This book will be cited in this essay as
12. Ibid. p. 9.
13. From "The Two Lovers."
14. From "The Widow in the Bye Street."
15. "Novissima Verba: The last Conversations of St. Therese of the Child
Jesus" (Burns, Oates and Washbourne, London) p. 112.
16. "Spirit;" p. 24
17.) "Library of St. Francis de Sales: Works of this Doctor of the Church"
translated into English by Rev. Henry Benedict Mackey. II. "Treatise on the
Love of God" (Burns, Oates and Washbourne, London), p. 211.
18. Novissima Verba, p. 139.
19. Shakespeare, "Hamlet" (Act 1, Scene 3):
"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried Grapple them to thy soul
with hoops of steel."
Lao Tzu would say:
"Good tying makes no use of rope and knot, And yet nobody can untie it."
This comes nearer to Therese's philosophy than Shakespeare does.
20. "Spirit." p. 36.
21. "Histoire d'une Ame" (cited in note 4), p. 429
22. "Spirit," p. 37
23. "Autobiography," p. 297.
24. Ibid., p. 353.
25. "Spirit," p. 200.
26. "Autobiography," pp. 220-1.
27. "The Analects," Book I.
28. "Autobiography," pp. 222-3.
29. "Spirit," p. 150
30. See "China in Peace and War" (Kelly and Walsh. Shanghai). p. 73.
31. See Petitot, "Saint Therese of Lisieux" (Burns, Oates and Washbourne,
London), p. 156.
32. "Autobiography," pp. 294-5.
33. "Spirit," p. 196.
34. "Toa Teh Ching," Chapter 44.
35. II. Corinthians, VI, 8 (Vulgate).
36. "Novissima Verba," p. 54.
37. Lao Tzu said:
Know the masculine,
Keep to the feminine
And be the Brook of the world.
To be the Brook of the world is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without swerving from it
And to return again to Infancy.
Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 29.
The idea is that one should know how to be manly but act always gently like
a woman. Therese could be a man if she wanted to. "Kindness must not
degenerate into weakness." But most of the time, she was a woman.
38. "Spirit," p- 55
39. "Autobiography," p. 103.
40. "Novissima Verba," p. 62.
41. Ibid. pp. 82-3.
42. Autobiography, p. 316.
43. Ibid. p. 310.
44. Ibid. p. 313.
45. "Spirit," p. 34.
46. "Novissima Verba."
47. "Autobiography," p. 268.
48. See Alice Lady Lovat, "The Love of Saint Teresa."
Fr. P. Hernandez, after an interview with St. Teresa of Avila, said:
"They told me she was a remarkable woman; it is nothing of the sort.
She is a man, and a man such as I have never seen before". (p. 311.)
I have often thought that Therese of Lisieux is to Teresa of Avila what
Einstein is to Newton.
49. "Autobiography," p. 107.
50. See Mr. Justice Holmes, edited by Frankfurter, p. 116.
51. Letter dated Oct. 7, 1924.
52. Chapter XXV.
53. See Petitot, "St. Teresa of Lisieux," p. 263.
54. See "Jesus, The King of Love," p. 200.
55. "Autobiography," p. 205.
56. Ibid., pp. 221-2.
57. Petitot. p. 273.
58. "Spirit," p. 195.
59. "Autobiography," pp. 317-8.
60. "Spirit," p. 115.
61. Ibid., p. 115.
62. Thomas Aquinas, "Selected Writings" (Everyman's Library), p. 3.
63. See Ibid., p. 3.
64. "Autobiography," p 79
65. Ibid., p. 321
66. "Spirit," p. 141.
67. Ibid.. p. 142.
68. Ibid., p. 13.
69. "Autobiography," p. 231.