Friday, December 29, 2006

Any Club That Would Have Me for a Member...

I wouldn’t join any club that would have me for a member…

…that is a quote by the late, great Groucho Marx. In my case, Mother Superior would tell you that I am wont to beat myself on the head with a club – sort of the same self-depreciating sentiment as Groucho had. The reason I missed a day in posting my column is that I had been going through my own little “mini dark night of the soul.” Today’s column is about this very subject:

St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century saint, and mystic, who wrote so much about prayer [The Interior Castle] is said to have needed nuns to sit on her during prayer from time to time to stop her from levitating off the floor. This same nun once said the following…

“If this is the way you treat your friends Lord, no wonder you have so few.”

What was she talking about? She was talking about what it takes to do the will of God.

St. Therese of Lisieux died of tuberculosis. She coughed blood and slowly suffocated to death. Her death was slow – in fact it took her months to die. Despite how anxious she became to see God, she still wished to do His will, even if it meant suffering further. On June 14, a few months before she died on September 30th, she was speaking to Mother Agnes of Jesus (her older sister Pauline whom she thought of as mother for she raised Therese for much of her life).

From Mother Agnes’ “yellow notebook”…

“I [Pauline] asked, ‘Are you tired out because of your present state that seems to be so prolonged? You must be suffering very much!’”

“Yes, but this pleases me”


“Because it pleases God.”

Even unto death Therese desired only to please God. She didn’t have any great miracles in her life. Mother Mary didn’t appear to her, like she did to St. Bernadette. Christ never spoke to her like He did to St. Gertrude.

A statue of Mother Mary smiled Therese – once.

That’s it.

Yet throughout her life and death, Christ was very real and personal to her. He was not some distant historical personage or some vague concept. He was here and now – and she loved him madly.

But what made it so easy for her to do the will of God?

Fortunately for Therese she wanted to follow the will of God “from the get go” as they say – and desperately so. She went all the way to the Pope to get into the cloistered convent of Carmel Liseux at such an early age as she did.

But what was it that enabled her to suffer for Christ? In fact she was anxious to do so. One of her fondest desires was to be a martyr for this Christ that she never met or spoke to, yet whom she loves do much.

What let her do that?

In a word – Trust.

Therese’s Little Way is usually thought of in terms of love. Yet a very large part of it is about trust. We would be right to all it…

“The Little way of Trust”

I will let Therese herself tell you about it.

“For example, if I were to say to myself, I have acquired a certain virtue, and I am certain I can practice it. For then, this would be relying on my own strength, and when we do this, we run the risk of falling into the abyss. However, I will have the right of doing stupid things up until my death, if I am humble and remain little. Look at little children. They never stop breaking things, tearing things, falling down, and they do this even while loving their parents very, very much. When I fall in this way, it makes me realize my nothingness more, and I say to myself, what would I do and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?”

I have asked myself that same question before. What would I do, and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?

Therese had a very young, very emotional novice she trained. Her name was Marie of the Trinity. Marie was wont to cry at the drop of a hat and would often come to Therese filled with grief and tears. Marie would often feel that she was no longer called to be the nun that she had struggled so long to become. It became a running joke between the two women. Each time Therese would simply say…

“I suppose you don’t have a vocation any more?”

Then both women would laugh.

Bu there are even more ways to die than bodily. Sometimes, when we decide to follow Christ and give him our all…

“My God an my all” as St. Francis of Assisi used to pray

…we have to let part of ourselves die. Sometimes our dreams have to die, and that can be just as painful as any physical death. So I ask myself “What would I do, and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?”

Even now I can turn on the television and see someone who went to the same high school as I did; who went to the same college as I did; who graduated with the same degree as I did. What if I followed that same path? Would I be famous?

The other option is to follow Gods dreams – His plans. If I followed my own dreams and relied on my own strength I might find fleeting glory – the vanity of man.

If I follow God dreams I would find eternal glory.

St. Paul said it best…

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

God Bless You All,

Sister Julie


Anonymous said...

First off, you never gave us any conclusion to the "I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me for a member". you still feel that way about yourself, or do you feel better about yourself, now that you've given up your dreams for God's dreams? Plus, what about that big stick you beat yourself with...still carrying it around, just in case you want to bash your self esteem a little more? Please let us know about that part of your journey. Thanks!

Sr. Frances
of the Sisters of

Sr.Julie said...

Well Sister, like anything I am still a work in progress. Giving up one's dreams for God's will is one thing. Never having any doubts is quite another. As Dr. McCoy once said to Spock (and I know you will understand the reference) "but Spock, we will always doubt whether or not the bullets are real."