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Thérèse of Lisieux, Part V: Surrender to Love

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 4

Thérèse of Lisieux, Part V: Surrender to Love
Friday, August 7, 2015

Thérèse is a gift and inspiration to us precisely because she is so little and ordinary, just like each of us. She was not always a pillar of faith. During the last eighteen months of her life, when she was dying painfully from tuberculosis, Thérèse came to understand how people could have no faith at all.

She told a sister at her deathbed, “If only you knew what darkness I am plunged into. I don’t believe in eternal life; I think that after this life there is nothing. Everything has disappeared on me, and I am left with love alone.” Although she did not regain feelings of faith, she said to her sister Pauline, “Yes! What a grace it is to have [the gift of] faith! If I had not had any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant’s hesitation.” Thérèse also said, “The more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.”

Brother Joseph Schmidt describes Thérèse’s experience at the end of her life:

She grasped faith with the willingness of love. . . . [1]

In her physical suffering and spiritual torture, Thérèse surrendered into the reality of her nothingness, into the welcoming arms of God where she had always been from the beginning. Even though her little way seemed an illusion, she refused to abandon it; she blindly continued to live it. She was loving God by willingly embracing God’s love for her, however painful that purifying love was. . . . Thérèse’s early desire to love God so lavishly—that desire, too was being purified by God into a willing spirit of total self-surrender to God’s love and God’s will. . . . Jesus was making her one with himself in his own experience of physical annihilation, spiritual darkness, and total self-emptying. . . .

In her final agony, as she desired to be consumed in the tender waves of God’s love, she also desired that same consummation of love for all those in her heart—and for all humanity. With this intention, convinced that God in taking her into divine love would draw with her all creation, she prayed in one of her final prayers, “Jesus, draw me into the flames of [Your] love; unite me so closely with [You] that [You] live and act in me.” [2]

Earlier, she had written, “MY VOCATION IS LOVE!” . . . She understood “that love comprised [the essence of] all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places—in a word, that it was eternal!” . . . Her final sigh was an echo of her entire life: “Oh, I love Him! My God, I love You!” . . . Her sisters documented that in that final moment, Thérèse raised her eyes and her face became radiant with an expression of total peace and sheer joy. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
“My way is all confidence and love.” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux

[1] Joseph F. Schmidt, Walking the Little Way of Thérèse of Lisieux: Discovering the Path of Love (The Word Among Us Press: 2012), 201.
[2] Ibid., 205-206.
[3] Ibid., 207-208. 

Image credit: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, age 15 (detail), April 1888.