Reflection by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke
The Act of Oblation to Merciful Love
June 9, 1895
O MY GOD! Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love you and make you Loved,
To work for the glory of the Holy Church
By saving souls on earth and by liberating those suffering in purgatory.
I desire to accomplish your will perfectly
And to reach the degree of glory that you have prepared for me in Your Kingdom.
I desire, in a word, to be Holy, but I feel my powerlessness
And I beg you, O my God! to be yourself my Holiness!
You loved me so much that you gave me your only Son
To be my Savior and my Spouse.
The infinite treasures of his merits are mine.
I offer them to you with gladness.
Look on me through the Face of Jesus and in his Heart burning with Love.
I offer you, too, all the merits of the saints in Heaven and on earth,
Their acts of Love, and those of the Holy Angels.
Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity!
The Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my cherished Mother.
To her, I entrust my offering completely, imploring her to present it to you.
Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, during his earthly life declared:
“Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give to you!”
I am certain, therefore, that you will grant my desires; I know it, O my God!
The more you want to give, the more you make us desire.
I feel in my heart immense desires and
With confidence I ask you to come and take possession of my soul.
Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire,
But, Lord, are you not all-powerful?
Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate yourself from your little victim.
I want to console you for the ingratitude of the wicked, and
I beg you to take my freedom to displease you away.
If through weakness I sometimes fall,
May your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately,
Consuming all my imperfections like fire that transforms everything into itself.
I thank You, O my God! for all the graces that you have granted me,
Especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering.
With joy I shall contemplate you on the Last Day
Carrying the scepter of your Cross.
Since you have chosen to give me a share in this very precious Cross,
I hope in heaven to resemble you
and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of your Passion.
After earth’s Exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the Fatherland,
But I do not want to lay up merits for heaven.
I want to work for your Love Alone with the one purpose of pleasing you:
To console your Sacred Heart, and to save souls who will love you forever.
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands.
Lord, I do not ask you to count my works.
All our justice is stained in your eyes.
I wish, then, to be clothed in your own Justice
And by your Love to receive you as my eternal possession.
No other Throne, no other Crown do I want but you, my Beloved!
Time is nothing in your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years.
You can, then, in an instant prepare me to appear before You.
Finally, in order to live in an act of perfect Love,
I offer myself as a victim of holocaust to your Merciful Love.
I beg you to consume me incessantly.
Allow the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within you to overflow into my soul.
In this way, make me become a Martyr of your Love, O my God!
In the end, after it has prepared me to appear before you, may this martyrdom make me die.
May my soul take its flight without delay
Into the eternal embrace of your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, with each beat of my heart
to renew this offering to you an infinite number of times,
until the shadows are no more, and
I am able tell you of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!
St. Thérèse believes that God is ready to set our humanity on fire. Though we are guilty before the Face of God, the Father does not look on us with anger, but gazes on us to contemplate His only begotten Son. He is no passive observer of human affairs. He stands ready to give everything to us for the asking—possession of all His merits, all His justice, all that is owed to Him for what He accomplished in His Humanity.
The dynamic vision of God presented by St. Thérèse cannot be overstated. The Trinity that St. Thérèse contemplates is involved in our plight, yet we have not caught on to the greatness of His purpose. We are helpless before the immensity of His love, but He is waiting for us, ready to act with power. Far from proposing a deity disappointed and distant, she cries out to the Almighty as the One surging with life and goodness towards us. She sees “shut up” in the Trinity “waves of infinite tenderness.” She also sees that through union with Christ her own humble efforts to love become the key that unlocks torrents of tenderness. She roots this self-offering not on anything that she has achieved or accomplished for God. Instead, it is rooted in the power of prayer to obtain, or more precisely, “impetrate” or beg the Mercy of God. There are graces that God wants to give us, but He is waiting for us to ask with the right humility and devotion. Until we ask rightly, these graces are shut up in Him like a flood waiting to break forth from a dam.
The humility and the devotion that unlock the floodgates are not mental feats Thérèse manufactures on her own. The prayer that unleashes mercy is a gift of Christ, something that the Lord has given her possession of by faith. To express her assurance that God will hear her prayer, St. Thérèse quotes the words of Christ: “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give to you” (Jn 4:13). In her logic, the more frequently we rely on the Lord to offer ourselves in love, the more perfect our witness to God, and the more His love is unleashed. Yet she also knows that such love comes at a cost. One can only love at one’s own expense—perfect love is offered “unto death.” Thérèse is not confident in her own feeble efforts to this end. She is confident that the God who gives the desire to love this way will give all that is needed to do so. Thus, her offering is also a petition: “Be Thou my sanctity!”
The Act of Oblation that St. Thérèse offered and that we are preparing to make for ourselves orients us toward the immensity of God’s saving love at work in the concrete moments of daily life and away from our own merits and accomplishments. This self-offering is at the heart of St. Thérèse’s witness and it is offered out of love for the Lord who wishes to immerse our lives in His inexhaustible mercy. She invites her closest friends to make this sacrifice with her, and meditating on her letters from before and after this offering, we will be prepared to join them in doing something beautiful for God.
Anthony Lilles is an author and theologian who serves in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as academic dean of St. John’s Seminary and academic adviser to Juan Diego House. Dan Burke is the executive director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Together they compiled reflections on the letters of St. Therese of Lisieux in Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux.