Friday, October 01, 2004

Notes on the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Today we remember St. Therese of Lisieux, the 19th century French Carmelite nun known as the progenitor of the "Little Way" and author of the classic spiritual autobiography Story of a Soul. For a long time I was somewhat suspicious of Therese, for I associated devotion to her with a saccharine strain of Catholic spirituality which doesn't move me. That changed, however, when I actually got around to reading Story of a Soul, which reveals Therese as a tough, spunky young woman quite different from the passive and pious figure of "Little Flower" stereotype. The Therese I admire was determined and courageous; she fought hard to win admission to the Carmel (at one point, she even appealed to the Pope) and dealt stoically with the challenges she faced living in religious community. Another interesting dimension of Therese's story - and one which illuminates the disconnect between the popular perception of this saint and the person she actually was - is that the integral text of Story of a Soul was unavailable for a long time. The version that first saw the light of day - and, ironically, the one that cemented Therese's reputation - was severely edited and in some instances rewritten by her fellow sisters so as to appear more simply pious and "edifying" to the public. The complete text, available in English in the superb ICS edition, gives a fuller and more accurate picture of who Therese was. So, if you want the real Story of a Soul, get the ICS edition - accept no substitutes.

As an aside, I was surprised to learn in Midland that Therese has an interesting connection to the Society of Jesus. As in turns out, she was canonized in the same ceremony in which the North American Martyrs were beatified. Go figure. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home