Reading the Bible from The Heart of The Church

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The Love of St.Thérèse of Lisieux

This post is an excerpt from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.


“And then she said to her divine guide: “You know where I want to go, You know for whom I want to climb the mountain, for whom I want to reach the goal. You know the one whom I love and the one whom I want to please solely; it is for Him alone that I am undertaking this journey. Lead me, then, by the paths which He loves to travel. I shall be at the height of my joy provided that He is pleased. Then Jesus took me by the hand, and He made me enter a subterranean passage where it is neither cold nor hot, where the sun does not shine, and in which the rain or the wind does not visit, a subterranean passage where I see nothing but a half-veiled light.”

— St. Thérèse to Sr. Agnes of Jesus

Before she entered Carmel, St. Thérèse had journeyed with her father and sister Céline on a pilgrimage to Rome. Most of the travel was done by train and St. Therese marveled at the beautiful countryside. We can imagine that train also passed through some tunnels in the mountains. This present letter, written a few years later, speaks not of a geographic journey, but of a spiritual one. The summit of the mountain of Love is an image in the Carmelite spirituality especially developed by St. John of the Cross in his commentary on his poem The Dark Night.

There are some who look at uncomfortable and unfamiliar experiences in the spiritual life as things to be avoided or problems to be overcome. They presume wrongly that prayer should always make us feel good. They believe that deep prayer is affirming and validating. The moment they do not feel affirmed or validated, they presume that God has abandoned them or that they must have done something to disappoint him. They believed that they have lost the approval of the Lord. This becomes equally problematic when a soul becomes overly anxious or discouraged. In such cases, it is easy to backslide and give up on prayer. This was a pattern that St. Teresa of Ávila struggled with for many years until the Lord brought her through this difficult grace—a grace John of the Cross calls the dark night and St. Thérèse understands as an underground passage up the mountain of Love.


This post is an excerpt from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

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