Thursday, May 14, 2009

“The Test of Faith: 1896-1897”: Chapter Ten of “The Story of a Soul”*

I have been reading “The Story of a Soul”, by St. Therese of Lisieux. (See below for links to my previous posts on this book.) Chapters 10 and 11 contain the writings from what had been known as “Manuscript C”, which was written in the form of a letter to her prioress, Sister Marie de Gonzague.

I had a great deal of difficulty reading and relating to this section. At this time, Therese was very ill and near to death. Her writing becomes very lofty and general, and goes off in tangents, so that it is difficult to follow at times. Then she comes back with specific stories that are very relatable. Part of this is because of the way she was forced to write, with many interruptions throughout the day.

She writes of hoping to arrive at sainthood by staying “little”, or simple. She believes she is about to die, and is joyful at the idea, only to find that she has more time. Then she writes at great length about the trials she has with dealing with all of the sisters she lives with.

We can all relate to what she writes about loving our sisters, complete with all of their faults. We must look for their virtues so that we can love them better. We also must never judge. When we consider how our own actions have been misinterpreted by others, we must also see that we might possibly be misjudging others. The best thing is to assume the best intentions on their part.

I once had a good friendship go terribly awry due to misinterpretations on both sides. My very best girlfriend was going to move far away and told me that it really bothered her when people got all emotional about the news. So I pretended that her move didn’t make me sad. I carried on this charade for a whole month. It was one of the hardest things I ever did! On her part, she thought that I was glad to see her go; that I disliked her and was happy to get rid of her. And I was horrified that she would think I would think that. The move was postponed; but, sadly, our friendship was never quite the same after that.

It is very funny how Therese writes of a sister whose character seems to be “very displeasing”. Therese goes out of her way to smile at this sister, trying her best to see within the depths of her soul whatever it must be that God must find pleasing there. The sister thinks that Therese has favored her and Therese lets her believe it to be so.

I was able to use this idea in a conversation I had with my daughter about her upcoming birthday. She is turning twelve next week, and we were discussing ideas about how to celebrate with her friends. “How many friends are important to you?” I asked her.

“Ten,” she said.

“Is that all the girls that are in your class?”

“No, there is one that I don’t like.”

“So you would exclude her and invite everyone else?”

“No one else likes her either. She doesn’t get along with anyone.”

“So she has no friends in the class?”

“She’s really annoying.”

“Maybe if she had a friend she wouldn’t be so annoying. She is the one that is most need of being loved.”

“But what if nobody else comes because they don’t want to hang out with her?”

“Well, that would be really wrong.”

We agreed in the end that she would include the girl in the invitations, with some reservations on my daughter’s part.

Therese ends this chapter with a discussion of true charity. We are to give without expecting anything in return. But in that sort of giving we do receive the most joy. I hope that in giving this invitation (even reluctantly) my daughter receives a special grace that she will never forget.

*The chapter divisions differ from translation to translation. The one I am reading is translated and edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, 2006. The writings that have come down as “Manuscript C” comprise chapters 10-11 of this book.

For my reflections on the first nine chapters, please see my previous posts:
Manuscript A
Chapters 1-4
Chapters 5-8
Manuscript B
Chapter 9


Loren Christie said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Again, I enjoy reading what you pull from the book. I was really struck by Therese's joy about approaching death. It's so counter-culture. Not even Jesus seemed joyful about death. I had trouble relating to that. However, if death is like a birth, then I can relate to having a feeling of joy despite undergoing physical suffering. In that case I know what is coming, and the baby does not. Maybe Therese had that insight as well?

Loren Christie said...

I bestow upon you The Friendly Blogger Award. (Sorry, no picture with this one, don't know why.)Visit me to read about your splendor. :)