Hope in the Lives of the Saints // Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
The evening of June 8, 1885 was a memorable one for Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. With her community of Carmelites, Saint Thérèse listened to the obituary of Sister Anne-Marie of Jesus, a fellow Carmelite Sister in a neighboring monastery. In the spirit of Jansenism (a harmful movement that taught that God’s grace was only available to an elite group, emphasizing God’s justice, and filling a great number of hearts with anxiety and scrupulosity) so common at the time, Sister Anne-Marie had offered herself and her sufferings to God’s justice.
As Saint Thérèse heard these words spoken, grace entered into her heart. “Far from being attracted” to making this type of offering, Saint Thérèse instead turned to another of God’s divine attributes, His Merciful Love. It is this divine perfection that all others flow from, she discloses to her sister:
Even His Justice (and perhaps this even more so than the others) seems to me clothed in love. What a sweet joy it is to think that God is Just, that He takes into account our weakness, that He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear then?
Even God’s justice is merciful love because He takes into account our sinful nature.
The next day, Saint Thérèse wrote an eleven paragraph prayer consecrating herself to Jesus’ Merciful Love. This prayer reflects the total confidence and trust Saint Thérèse placed in God. The absolute confidence Saint Thérèse had in God’s merciful love is best displayed in her fearlessness of death:
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
Even anxiety about the potential of Purgatory was erased with her bold trust in God’s merciful love:
I need have no fear of purgatory. I know that of myself I would not merit even to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have entrance there, but I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of purgatory. I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us, and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them. Oh! how sweet is the way of Love!
Saint Thérèse’s message should instill in us great hope. We have nothing to fear when we approach God in humility, trust, and love because even Jesus’ justice is clothed in Merciful Love. When we consecrate ourselves to Jesus, giving Him our bodies, souls, our entire being and all that we own, know, and love, and place our complete trust in Him, He makes a home within our hearts. Then, it is He who begins to love for us, His merits become our own merits.
May Saint Thérèse, who placed all of her hope in the Merciful Love of Jesus, help us to do the same.
Let Us Pray
Jesus, we trust in You and Your Merciful Love! Help us to have great hope in eternal life with You. May we never be afraid to approach Your throne of grace, for You are always ready to receive us. Amen.
Are you afraid to come to God because of sin or past mistakes?
Have you experienced God's justice clothed in merciful love? How did that change your understanding of Who God is?