Monday, March 15, 2004

Steps to Authentic Reform: St. Therese

This is embarrassing to admit but St. Therese was very hard reading for me. Not for the sublimity of what she wrote or experienced. I envied her. I envied her because of her family. I think that I have mentioned here that my parents are divorced. They divorced when I was very young, say, 6 months old. So when St. Therese describes her family I wanted to retch and to sit around the table with them.

On the other hand, St. Therese made me look like a wimp. If you haven't given it any thought, try this on for size. When you die of tuberculosis, you suffocate on your own blood. The lining of your lungs rips and you bleed into your lungs. And she cheerfully suffered this physical torment and a spiritual torment as well AT THE SAME TIME! Her family rooted her soundly in the love of God and love of neighbor necessary to endure all things.

And that is the great irony of St. Therese. For a little girl who joined a Carmelite convent at a young age, she is more famous than many world leaders. When the relics came to Philadelphia while I was in the seminary, the Archdiocese estimated 30,000+ people came by to see the relics. More came out to the seminary where the relics remained overnight. And from her example, she has scattered roses of conversion from her place in heaven.

Step Four: Vicarious Redemptive Suffering If we want to see reform, we must win graces for the weak and with real compassion, we must suffer with those whose faith or resolve seems to falter. That's the root of the word "compassion," to suffer with. And I am not suggesting that you start scourging yourself. Look around you. Is there a household chore you hate? Offer it up and do it cheerfully. Okay, work on the cheerfully part. Is there someone with whom you work that you would like to fire out of a cannon? Offer it up and have lunch with them.

This sort of suffering does us some good as well it should be noted. Through suffering we find ourselves detached from the world and attached to the person of Christ, by whose stripes we were healed.

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