Get a group of Catholic women together talking about saints and the discussion will inevitably turn to St Therese of Lisieux. While the other women sigh dreamily and wax rhapsodic about their devotion to this particular saint, I stare awkwardly at the floor and remain silent.
I just don’t get her.
I devour the stories of girls of action like Marciana, Joan of Arc, Helena and Quiteria. I love a girl who springs into action and isn’t afraid to fight for her beliefs (especially if she’s swinging a sword.) I can’t help but smile at the girls with big mouths like Catherine of Alexandria and Catherine of Siena who gladden my heart with their boldness…
…and then there’s Therese…and I shake my head in dismay.
And I want to like her. I want to know the affection for this young woman that the other Catholic women in my social circle seem to feel.
But she leaves me cold.
The very idea of the cloister is abhorrent to me. Imagining a life locked away from contact with the outside world sounds like a prison to me. Try as I might to imagine the beauty of such a life, I don’t understand it. I crave the company of other people too strongly to be able to comprehend a life willingly spent behind walls and screens.
Which is why I just don’t get her at all. There is no part of me which can make sense of her vocation. It is a foreign language for which I have no Rosetta Stone. Her soul speaks a language mine doesn’t know how to hear.
I’ve begun her book a dozen times, only to set it aside in frustration. She does not speak to me. But the women I love sing her praises, and I wonder what it is that keeps me from hearing her.
I can’t help but feel as if I’m missing something wonderful.
And so I’m beginning yet again, and bringing a friend along with me. I’ve convinced a fellow extrovert to read Story of a Soul with me so that we can perhaps puzzle it out together. We’re getting together once a week for coffee and St Therese and hoping she will at last speak to us. I’ll let you know how it goes.