It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by, but it’s the Little Flower’s Feast Day again. This time last year, I shared a post in which Thérèse was likened to, and bettered, both Confucius and Lao Tzu. And now, as then, I turn to thoughts on her penned by my friend John C.H. Wu.
Having recently picked up The Story of a Soul at a used bookstore nearby, I’m looking forward to reading her thoughts directly myself. But John really understands her like a soul mate, and as a kindred spirit. She was the model that he tried to emulate. I’m of the mind that he succeeded, and I too aspire to do the same. In that regard, I have a long, long way to go in order to reach that lofty goal.
But as we journey together toward that poised and proper paradise, come along and see how my friend paints a portrait of Thérèse as the sincere lover of Christ that we too are called to be.
From The Science of Love by John C.H. Wu
Thérèse 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 remainTill the Day that knows no setting, when faith shall cease to be.
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 seems 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 Thérèse 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.
Tissot’s “Our Lord”
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 gloom.”
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.
You can say that again. St. Thérèse of Lisieux pray for us, and for the whole world, that we may see as you see, pray as you prayed, and love as you loved. Amen.