By Fr. Augustine Mary, MFVA
Jesus opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own; that the splendor of the rose and the lily's whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent, nor make less ravishing the daisy's charm. I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, nature would lose her Spring adornments, and the fields would be no longer enameled with their varied flowers."
With what tenderness the heart of St. Therese speaks of the care with which Our Lord clothes the lilies of the field and each person with their own specific radiance. We note here how complementary the sentiments of St. Therese are with the words of Our Lord: And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, 0 men of little faith ? Therefore do not be anxious .... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well (Mt. 6:28-33).
St. Therese continues, "So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases Him to create great saints, who may be compared with lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are."
Such a sweet abandonment to the will of God is communicated by these words and in this St. Therese gives us an example to the way of peace in our hearts and adoration of our Lord Jesus as we perceive the beauty of His work in other Souls.
"I saw something further; that Our Lord's love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields completely to His Grace as it does through the greatest. True love is shown in self-abasement, and if everyone were like the saintly doctors who adorn the Church, it would seem that God had not far enough to stoop when He came to them. But He has, in fact created the child who knows nothing and can only make feeble cries; and the poor savage with only the natural law to guide him; and it is to hearts such as these that He stoops. What delights Him is the simplicity of these flowers of the field, and by stooping so low to them, He shows how infinitely great He is."
St. Theres's identification of love with self-abasement helps us to love our Lord Jesus crucified all the more. She turns our mind to the burning furnace of divine charity that lives in the Heart of Christ such that He reaches down to the most little and unnoticed, even to the poor savage who has never heard of Him whom He guides by the natural law.
"It was He who caused her to be born on soil which had been abundantly blessed, where eight radiant lilies already bloomed, and where the fragrance of purity was ever about her. In His love He wished to preserve her from the world's foul breath, and her petals were scarcely open when He transplanted her to the mountain of Carmel, to Mary's garden of delight."
Thus St. Therese speaks of Our Lord's creation of her, and her gratitude and contemplative gaze upon her beloved Jesus shines through. The following lines show to us her love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in His passion.
"But the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was what I loved best, for I could scatter flowers beneath the feet of God! I used to throw them up high into the air before they fell and when my rose petals touched the monstrance my happiness was complete."
"As I closed my Missal after Mass one Sunday, a picture of the Crucifixion slipped out a little way and I could just see one of the wounds in Our Lord's hands, with blood flowing from it. A strange new thrill passed over me. It pierced my heart with sorrow to see His Precious Blood falling, with no one bothering to catch it, and I made up my mind, there and then, to stay in spirit at the foot of the Cross, to gather up the dew of heavenly life and give it to others."
"The cry of Jesus as He died, 'I thirst,' echoed every moment in my soul, inflaming my heart with a burning love. I longed to satisfy His thirst for souls; I was consumed myself with this same thirst, and yearned to save them from the everlasting fires of Hell, no matter what the cost. Then Jesus stirred up my love even more by letting me see how pleased He was with these longings of mine. I had been hearing people talk about a notorious criminal called Pranzini, who had been condemned to death for several brutal murders, and as he was unrepentant it was thought he was going to lose his soul. I longed to save him from this final tragedy, hut though I did use every spiritual means in my power, I knew that by myself there was nothing I could do to ransom him; and so I offered for him Our Lord's infinite merits and all the treasures of the Church. Needless to say, deep down in my heart I was sure that he would he reprieved, but I wanted some encouragement to go in my search for souls, so I said very simply: 'My God, I am sure You are going to forgive this wretched Pranzini, and I have so much confidence in Your mercy that I shall go on being sure even though he does not go to confession, or show any sign at all of being sorry; but because he is my first sinner, please give me just one sign to let me know.' He answered me to the letter. Father never used to let me read the papers, but I didn't think I was being disobedient when I rushed to La Croix the day after he was executed and turned to the bit about Pranzini. Guess what I found! I was so moved that tears came to my eyes and I had to rush out of the room. He had gone to the scaffold without confession or absolution, and was being led to the block by the executioner when he suddenly turned round. The priest had been holding out a crucifix to him, and as if moved by some inspiration, he had seized it and kissed the Sacred Wounds three times. This was my sign, and it touched me very much since it had been the sight of the blood flowing from one of these very wounds that had given me my thirst for souls. I had wanted to give them His Precious Blood to drink to wash their sins away, and here was my "first-born" pressing his lips to His wounds. What a wonderful answer! After this, my desire to save souls grew day by day. Our Lord seemed to be whispering to me, 'Give Me to drink' On. 4:7), as He did to the woman of Samaria, and so, hoping to quench His thirst, I poured out His Blood on souls, and offered them to Him refreshed with this dew of Calvary, exchanging love for love."
In this year in which we our Holy Father John Paul II has called is to assiduous meditation upon Jesus and also during which we celebrate the centenary of the death of St.Therese, let our hearts be guided by her awesome words of tender love for her divine Bridegroom. Let us imitate her in her gratitude for the Lord's creation, passion, gift of the Most Holy Eucharist. Let us with her seek to quench Our Lord's thirst for souls.