Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Battle to Love

The Story of A Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux's autobiography is kept on our breakfast room table. Twice in two days I have randomly turned to the same page and my eyes fell on the same excerpt. It is well worth pondering because she shares how she overcame a problem in relating to another person with an increase of charity in her actions. This is what she said that caught my attention:

"I am, I confess, far from practising what I know I should, yet the mere desire I have to do so gives me peace. If it happens that I fall and commit a fault against charity, I rise again at once. For some months I have no longer even had to struggle. I can say with our Father St. John of the Cross: 'My house is entirely at peace,' and I attribute this deep peace to a certain battle which I won. Ever since this victory the hosts of heaven come to my aid, for they cannot bear to see me wounded after I fought so valiantly on the occasion I am going to describe."

Therese demonstrates the great moral virtue of a true saint. They fall like us in their humanity but get back up quickly! Take notice of how she found deep interior peace from exercising her free will to obey Jesus' greatest commandment to love as He loved. She continues:

"Formerly one of our nuns managed to irritate me whatever she did or said. The devil was mixed up in it, for it was certainly he who made me see so many disagreeable traits in her. As I did not want to give way to my natural dislike for her, I told myself that charity should not only be a matter of feeling but should show itself in deeds. So I set myself to do for this sister just what I should have done for someone I loved most dearly. Every time I met her, I prayed for her and offered God all her virtues and her merits. I was sure that this would greatly delight Jesus, for every artist likes to have his works praised and the divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not halt outside the exterior of the sanctuary where He has chosen to dwell but go inside and admire its beauty."

Isn't it helpful to hear the saints speak honestly about real problems in their lives and learn how they dealt with them? Okay, so Therese too was irritated by the behaviors of another person that she lived with. How many of us can relate to that? But right away she says she doesn't want to "give way to my natural dislike." So we're not alone; everyone struggles with this same issue. We don't like everyone we meet and it's those very people that can be gift to us because they cause us to change, to convert our own heart as we talked about in yesterday's post.  Quickly Therese resolves to bend her will to goodness and mercy just as we would for anyone we love.

Well, Sr. Therese succeeded. One day the nun came to her and said, "...will you please tell me what attracts you so much to me? You give me such a charming smile whenever we meet.." And Therese's shared in her autobiography that it was "Jesus hidden in the depth of her soul who attracted me, Jesus who makes the bitterest things sweet!"

If you're like me, you just chuckle hearing the question the other nun asked her. Because of her obedience to the command to love, Therese says that a heavenly host came to her aid to help her since she fought the valiant fight to love. Do we think of it like that--a valiant fight to love?

Here's a recap on the practical steps Therese took so we can apply them in our life:
  1. Recognize the problem and admit it
  2. Rise quickly after falling into error
  3. Desire to delight Jesus
  4. Make a conscious choice to love
  5. Pray for the graces necessary to overcome
  6. See that person as the work of the divine Artist
  7. Desire to put into practice what we should
  8. Pray for the person we dislike
  9. Offer God all their merits and virtues
May we also win the battle to love and find what Therese experienced: "My house is entirely at peace."

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