Tough Little Sister

Therese once said, “I believe I am humble.”

I was speaking at a conference on the saint when someone asked the obvious question, “How could she have said, ‘I believe I am humble?’ Surely if you think you’re humble, you’re proud, and therefore you’re not humble, and you’re certainly not a saint.”

The answer comes in discovering where and when Therese said this. She said it on her deathbed the day she died. She had suffered in cheerful fortitude for months with the terrible disease of tuberculosis–literally coughing up bits of her lung until there was nothing left. All this in a particularly hot summer. In addition to her illness, she had been in a spiritual darkness for years in which she felt totally abandoned by God. She was even tempted to suicide–so deep was her desolation and so dark was her ‘dark night.’

At that point, the poor girl, only 24 years old, with no lungs left, gasped out. “Yes, I believe I am humble.”

I’m speechless at it all, and at Mass today, was quite moved. It is my first time to celebrate Mass on the Memorial of this saint who is so very special to me. I think it is her prayers that have allowed for the ‘miracle’ of my being a Catholic priest. When I first met her at Lisieux as a young Anglican priest (and learning that she prayed for priests) I said to her, “Maybe you will pray for me, even though I am not a full member of your family, and maybe one day I could even be one of your priests.”

Now, twenty years later I am not only a Catholic, but a Catholic priest.

Excuse me for a moment while I wipe my eyes…

Anyway, here’s the link to an article I wrote about Therese for Touchstone magazine some years ago.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06624317806947588259 Rachel Gray

    Father, you’re now the *second* priest I’ve encountered today who’s all in tears because of St. Therese! I was at Mass this morning in the L.A. area and our priest related to us some details of her last illness. The doctor told her to take walks in the garden, but after a while her TB was so bad that she suffered pain with every step. A sister suggested she stop walking, but St. Therese said no, she would offer every step, every pain, for missionaries who might be despairing of their vocations. Right there our priest choked up and had to stop the homily for a moment. Then he repeated in a tearful voice, “for missionaries in despair of their vocations.” And said he thinks it’s because of her that he was able to persevere. (I know he had to struggle in the 70′s– kicked out of a seminary for being too orthodox, stuff like that– before he finally became a missionary priest and spent 18 years in Brazil.) Anyway, it was a *really* moving homily. St. Therese is clearly spending her eternity doing good on Earth, just like she wanted.Oh, speaking of humility, it’s not pretending your work is less good than you really know it is! C.S. Lewis wrote something about rejoicing in God’s gifts whether they’re given to you or another. So if Michelangelo and I were standing together before the Pieta, and we both were perfectly humble, we would be equally thrilled to admire the masterpiece, and give glory to God, the source of all talents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04298493682961935337 Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

    How wonderful..thankyou for sharing that with us..very moving…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04186765179750086739 AutumnRose

    I love Therese, too…I am a convert, and it was Therese who led me to the True Church of Christ. She is fulfilling her life’s work in heaven now, for many others, with her showers of roses.Thank you for such a beautiful and moving post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01469622835449220113 Dymphna

    Thank you for this post.