Graces falling from Heaven
"Jesus replied to him, 'Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'" Luke 23, 43
On Good Friday of the year 1896, Thérèse is suffering from a lingering sore throat. She goes through a fit of strong cough, which leaves her handkerchief stained with blood. This signals the onset of tuberculosis, the very illness that will claim her life.
At the same time, another trial begins for Thérèse, "the night of faith," in which her soul is overrun by darkness, with no possible consolation. She feels completely severed from God's love and comes to doubt the very existence of Heaven. We know that she remained alone in the darkness until the end of her life.
In her writings to Mother Marie de Gonzague, the Prioress, Thérèse wonders what became of her once so lively and intense faith. She describes her spiritual distress to the Prioress as follow: "You must imagine that I have been born in a country entirely overspread with a thick mist. And now, all of a sudden, the mists around me have become denser than ever; they sink deep into my soul and wrap it round so that I can't recover the dear image of my native country anymore, everything has disappeared."
In an attempt to cheer her gloomy spirit, Thérèse tries to focus on the promise of Heaven, the bright homeland where her hopes lay. But the darkness surrounding her talks to her, and makes fun of her beliefs: "It's all a dream, this talk of a heavenly country, bathed in light, scented with delicious perfumes, and of a God who made it all, who is to be your possession in eternity! You really believe, do you? That the mist, which hangs about you, will clear away later on? All right, all right, go on longing for death! But death will make nonsense of your hopes; it will only mean a night darker than ever, the night of mere non-existence."
However, Thérèse understands the nature of this awful trial: she profoundly comprehends what, to us, may look like an almost illogical condescension of God. She offers her sufferings for the sinners, including herself, thus uniting them to Jesus' sufferings on the Cross: if Christ endured the torture of abandonment during his Passion, then so would she.
At the same time, it is a severe lesson from God: Thérèse once mentioned that she couldn't understand the position of an atheist, that a non-believer could not deny the existence of heaven without being false to his own inner convictions and evade the obvious. Dwelling in the dark, wondering if her life was perhaps a waste, if there was anything at all after death, enables her to walk the path of an atheist. It allows her to respect the sentiments of an atheist and to acknowledge that only faith makes it possible to believe. She gladly offers her moral turmoils to Jesus, so that atheists might receive the Light, and is thankful to God for purging her from her complacency.
Thérèse is gradually relieved from her duties, due to her progressing illness, and asked by her sister Pauline, who is her superior, to focus on writing her memoirs. She does her best to present a cheerful and happy face to the other Sisters and hide the disease which is slowly eroding her body. She carries out acts of faith as usual and keeps up with her "Little Way.", despite the darkness brewing in her mind.
During her slow agony, as Thérèse is resting in the convent infirmary, she contemplates the rose bushes in bloom. She loves roses. As she is reflecting on her nearing end, she is making plans for her afterlife. A very ill cloistered Carmelite cannot do much, she thinks. She is convinced that once she enters the fullness of life with God, her mission will encounter no obstacle: "After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. My Heaven will be spent on Earth up until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my Heaven in doing good on Earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved..."
To Father Bellière, a missionary priest of her acquaintance, she writes: "I am not dying; I am entering life!"
Thérèse enters life on September 30, 1897. She is 24 years and nine months old.
Shortly after her passing, roses start falling from Heaven. Sometimes, there are real roses which appear, sometimes it is only their fragrance. People suffering from painful, fatal diseases experience miraculous healing. Others find inner peace, confidence, and acceptance after asking for Thérèse's intercession.
Thérèse promised that no request made to her would remain unanswered. Ask her all you need; she will intercede on your behalf! And if she wills, you may receive a rose, a real one or a spiritual one. It is her way of whispering to those who need a sign that she has heard, and God is responding.
Countless persons have been touched by Thérèse's intercession and imitate her "Little Way." She has been proclaimed "the greatest saint of modern times." In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Saint Thérèse "Doctor of the Church" in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.
Just for today, with the intercession of Little Thérèse, let us ask for all the graces we need in our life.
Saint Thérèse, Little Flower of Jesus, pray for us!
1- Statue of Saint Thérèse, Holy Hill Basilica, Wisconsin, USA.
2- Thérèse lying ill in the cloister, one month before her death.
3- Thérèse in death.
4- Thérèse in the chapel choir, on the third day after her death.
5- Pauline's note to her relatives, informing them of Thérèse's passing. It reads: "Beloved relatives and Dear Léonie,/Our Angel is in heaven. She gave up her last sigh at seven, while pressing her Crucifix to her heart, saying "Oh! I love You!" She had just raised her eyes to heaven, what was she seeing!!/Your little daughter who loves you more than ever, Sister Agnès of Jesus."
6- Pink roses.
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6
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Nine days with the Little Flower
Summary - You are invited to celebrate Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (feast day on October 1st) with this novena highlighting the simplicity of this young Saint, who later became Doctor of the Church. Discover the community