Therese of Lisieux… Saint
by Véronique Gay-Crosier
Artège, 320 p., €19.90
What makes a little Carmelite Norman who died at the age of 24 at the end of the 19th century a saint and even a doctor of the Church? Véronique Gay-Crosier, doctor of moral theology from the University of Friborg (Switzerland), sets out in this book to reread the spiritual itinerary of the young saint. We discover, or rediscover, his absolute temperament, his strength, his determination, the vivacity of his intelligence. His great freedom too. Educated in a very pious and very loving family, she indeed broke with the Jansenism of her time, convinced that Heaven was “earned” at the cost of merits, sacrifices and suffering, and that very few elected will achieve. “Ahead of her time, she is convinced that God calls everyone to holiness. »
Thérèse’s character is marked by great sensitivity, but also by “anger, stubbornness and self-love” which are difficult to control by her “powerful love of good”. The little one, from an early age, “nurtured great moral ambitions for herself”. His absolute desire for perfection and holiness, thwarted by an uncompromising lucidity about his own weaknesses, will bring him much torment, and sometimes even illness. It is precisely in these very human flaws that “God slipped in to reveal to him what would become his ‘little way’”.
Theological depth and banality of life
Step by step, this book unfolds the chronology of Thérèse’s journey, and reveals its great theological depth. What is striking, in contrast, is the very great banality of this life. It is in the very little nothings of existence that she discovers the highest theological and spiritual truths: the sighs of her father on Christmas Eve, the contemplation of a pious image, a chipped jug…
Which leads her little by little to decenter herself to turn entirely towards Christ, questioning the very notion of holiness. “Thérèse decided to definitively dismiss the extraordinary from her conception of holiness. Sanctification flourishes in the routine that it is up to us to make theological. For Thérèse, true holiness “is fundamentally imitable, incredibly accessible and simply realistic”.
The Way of the “Littleness” of the Soul
Simple ? Imitable? For ordinary mortals, this seems a bit quick to say. The renunciations to which she consents little by little, from her self-esteem to the consoling feeling of being loved by God, set her on a path of smallness and simplicity which is also one of great spiritual dryness, a night of faith that she will consent to live until her death. But it is in this very renunciation that she gradually understands that “everything is grace” and that Christ is the sole author of our holiness: “It is Jesus who directs the operations. »
The secret of holiness is the way of love for Christ and of abandonment to God, the way of the littleness of the soul which knows that it will achieve nothing great by its own strength. “It’s not about doing the will of God, but about being in the will of God. “Perfection is not the product of the multiplication of our acts of virtue, nor the consequence of our ability to successfully overcome trials: it is the ability to act out of love, even and above all when we feel like ourselves” so miserable”. »
Her little path, as this book shows, Thérèse developed it throughout her short life, with courage and lucidity, without denying the limits and faults of her human nature. Although it took her time to achieve this, she knew how to use them rather than fight them. But make no mistake about it: for her, accepting never means giving up. “Thérèse is the living demonstration that the serene and peaceful consent of one’s weakness is, in fact, an invitation to descend into ourselves: we are sinners loved and endlessly forgiven. This way remains open, one hundred and fifty years after its birth, for all those whom an overly heroic vision of holiness could discourage.
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