PROCESS OF BEATIFICATION
Agnes of Jesus
9. I want to see her beatified because she will bring God great glory, and will make his mercy known especially. People will put more trust in his mercy and fear his justice less: that is the secret of the “humble path of trust and self-surrender” that she hoped to make known to everybody once she was dead.
21. Trust in God had become her special characteristic. She felt attracted to this in early childhood, and I had done all in my power to develop this bent in her. She once told me that she had been struck from childhood by this verse from the Book of Job: “Even if he were to kill me, I would continue to hope in him.” First, scruples came to paralyze this impetus, and she was very troubled, too, during her first years in Carmel. This was partly because she had heard it said in some sermons that it was very easy to offend God and to stain one’s purity of conscience. This was a real torment to her. The preacher of the 1891 retreat restored her peace of mind. “He helped me especially,” she writes, ‘by telling me that my faults did not offend God. This assurance made the exile of this life bearable. I know that God loves us more tenderly than any mother, and is a mother not always ready to forgive the involuntary little failings of her child?”
From this retreat onwards her trust in God was complete, and she searched spiritual books for approval of her daring. She used to repeat happily Saint John of the Cross’ saying: “You obtain from God as much as you hope for.” She used also say that she had found a “lift” up to heaven, namely the arms of Jesus. She found complete security in this trust and the misfortunes of this life could not terrify her any more.
21. Her approach to our Lord was chiefly through the Childhood and Passion, an approach that is expressed in her double religious name – Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Her love of the Child Jesus drew her to offer herself to him as a toy in the hands of a child. By this apparently childish expression she meant that she should surrender herself entirely to our Lord’s will, and be prepared to be treated by his as he pleased.
22. Generally speaking, the Servant of God led a very simple life; otherwise she could not be a model for “ordinary people” which, as she said herself, was “her way”. Some isolated facts could be pointed out here, however, which had all the appearance of being extraordinary favours.
24. “Are you not surprised at how I suffer, Mother? I am like a little child during my illness: my only thought is to acquiesce simply in what God wills: to suffer on from one minute to the next whatever he sends me, without worrying about the future.”
Marie of the Sacred Heart
9. I desire very much to see her beatified, because then we shall see what she wanted us to see: that one must have confidence in the infinite mercy of God, and that holiness is accessible to all kinds of people.
21. I asked her to write out for me what I called her “little way of confidence and love.” Having asked our Mother’s permission, she did so during her last retreat, in September, 1896. This letter is now chapter 11 of the published Life. When I had read those glowing pages, I told her it was impossible for me to reach such lofty heights. It was then that she wrote me the letter of 17 September, 1896, in which, among other things, she told me: “How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love him? My desire for martyrdom is nothing… I know well that it is not that at all that God finds pleasing in my soul. What does please him is to see me love my littleness, my poverty, and to see the blind trust which I have in his mercy… That is my sole treasure.”
One day, when she had asked for a double portion of the love of the angels and saints, as Elisha had done in the case of the spirit of Elijah, she added: “Jesus, I cannot go more deeply into what I am asking: I should fear to be crushed by the sheer weight of its audacity. My excuse is that I am only a child, and children do not reflect on the full implications of what they say. Yet, if their parents were to mount a throne and inherit vast wealth, they would not hesitate to grant the desires of their little ones, whom they cherish as much as themselves. To please them they would spend most lavishly, even to the point of weakness. Well, then, I am a child of the Church, and the Church is a queen because she is your spouse, O divine King of Kings… Dear Jesus, how I wish I could explain to all those who are conscious of their own littleness how great your condescension is! I feel that if, by some impossible chance, you could find someone weaker and more insignificant than me, you could overwhelm her with still greater graces, provided she gave herself up with entire confidence to your infinite mercy.”
21. Throughout her life, Sister Therese strove to pass unnoticed. On the eve of my profession (1888) she wrote to me: “Pray for the feeble little reed that is at the bottom of the valley. Ask that, your little daughter may always remain as a tiny grain of sand, unnoticed and hidden from everyone’s eyes so that Jesus alone can see it, that it may become smaller and smaller until it is reduced to nothing.” In 1896 she wrote this to me: “Oh! If only those who are weak and imperfect could feel the same way about it as the least of the all – your little Therese – does, not one of them would despair of reaching the summit of the mountain of love.”
23. Generally speaking, the Servant of God did not attract any attention during her lifetime. Her virtue consisted principally in doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. Those who observed her more closely, however, noticed an absolutely rare degree of perfection in her.
24. After she had received Extreme Unction joyfully and peacefully, she expressed particular happiness at the fact that the priest had told her that her soul now resembled that of a newly baptized child.
Genevieve of Saint Teresa
21. She believed it was wrong to be afraid of desiring too much or asking God for too much: “We must say to God: I know I’ll never deserve what I am hoping for, but I stretch out my hand to you like a little beggar, and I am sure you will hear me fully, because you are so good.”
21. She had special devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation and celebrated it devoutly every 25 of March. She liked to think of Jesus as a child. She used to say: “It would be nice if I could die on the 25th of March; that’s when Jesus was littlest.”
21. This “spiritual childhood and complete surrender” was the essential characteristic of her holiness. In the personal guidance she gave each novice individually the same points always cropped up: humility, poverty of spirit, simplicity, trust in God.
The essence of her instruction was to teach us not to be upset when we saw ourselves as the personification of weakness, and to tell us to be diligent in loving, because “love covers a multitude of sins.” As she once said: “It is easy to please Jesus, to enrapture his Heart; you have only to love him, without looking at yourselves, without spending too much time examining your own faults.” Her thought is also well expressed in her following words to me: “You are very little, remember that, and when one is very little one does not have beautiful thoughts. God is prouder of what he is doing in your soul – your littleness and humbly accepted poverty – than he is of having created millions of suns and the whole expanse of the heavens.”
One day she gave expression to a very nice thought, and when I expressed regret at not being able to have such thoughts she said: “A baby takes its mother’s breast automatically, so to speak, and without realizing the usefulness of its action; yet it lives and grows. Naturally, it is a good thing to recollect oneself and actualize one’s intention often, but it must be done without constraint. God is well able to see the lovely thoughts and marvelous intentions we would like to have.” “Yes,” I answered, “but you are always very nice to God, and I am not. I would dearly love to be; would this desire make up the leeway?” “Yes,” she said, “especially if you accept the humiliation of it, and if you go a bit further and rejoice in it; that will please Jesus more than if you had never been lacking in attentiveness to him. Say: My God, I thank you for my not having even one nice thought about you, and I am glad to see that others do.”
She used to say: “There is no need for you to understand what God is doing in you; you are too little.” Or: “We must work not in order to become saints, but in order to please God.” Her “little way” consisted in boasting of her infirmities, of her utter inability to do anything good. The gospel passage about the workers who only worked one hour and yet were paid like all the rest delighted her: “Look, if we give ourselves up and put all our trust in God, making our little efforts and hoping for everything from his mercy, we will be just as rewarded and well-paid as the greatest of the saints.”
Another element of her “little way of surrender” was to look on the bright side of things, and to moderate our anxiety over our affairs. And she practiced this total surrender which she always taught us. One day during her illness, Mother Agnes saw that she was in great pain and said to her: “You look distressed, my poor little one; it’s because heaven is not yet just round the corner, isn’t it?” Se immediately replied: “Oh! Mother dear, for you not know me yet? Take this; you will find all my sentiments expressed in this poem of mine”:
“I want to live a long time yet.
O Lord, if that be your desire;
Or I would like to follow you to heaven,
If that would give you pleasure.
Love, that fire from the Fatherland,
Never ceases to consume me.
What does life or death matter to me?
Jesus, loving you is all my joy.”
One day I read in Ecclesiasticus that “Mercy will give to each his place according as his works deserve.” (Eccl. 16:15). Afterwards, I asked her how it was “as his works deserve” when Saint Paul had spoken of being “justified freely by grace”. She explained to me then with great vehemence that if the authentic spirit of childhood was based on surrender to and trust in God, it was based no less on humility and sacrifice. “We must,” she said, “do everything in our power, give without counting the cost, practice virtue at every opportunity, deny ourselves constantly, prove our love by all kinds of attentions and marks of affection, in a word, do all the good deeds in our power for the love of God. But since all that is really very little, it is important to place all our trust in him who alone sanctifies all deeds, and can sanctify without them; he can raise up children to Abraham from the very stones. Yes, when we have done all that we think we should do, we must admit that we are worthless servants, but hope nevertheless that God will give us, free, all that we desire. That is what ‘the little way of childhood’ is all about.”
21. The Servant of God always practiced humility. As a child, at an age when one is so anxious to grow, she expressed the desire to remain always low-sized. Later, on her deathbed, she rejoiced in the fact that in spite of having been nine years in religion she had always remained in the novitiate, and was thus deprived of a vote in the chapter and always regarded as “a little one.”
21. It is on humility that her “little way of childhood” is based: feeling weak and incapable of doing what was right (or, as she says herself, “too small to climb the steep stairs to perfection”) she threw herself into God’s arms and settled down there.
21. Here are some of the things she said to me, to teach me humility: “We sometimes catch ourselves desiring what catches the eye. When that happens, let us humbly throw in our lot with the imperfect, and look on ourselves as ‘little souls’ that God has to support every moment of the day. When he sees that we are really convinced of our nothingness, he gives us his hand; if we still try to do something big for him, even under pretext of zeal, he leaves us on our own. But as soon as I say I have stumbled, you steady me Lord (Ps 93:18).”
24. One day she said to me: “Our Lord once answered the mother of the sons of Zebedee: ‘To sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father’ (Mt 20:23). I like to think that those places which were refused to great saints will be the inheritance of little children.”
Another time, I read her the following quotation from a saint: “Even if I did penance for many years, I would still be afraid of being damned.” She immediately remarked: “I cannot share that fear; I am too little to be damned; little children are never damned.”
One day I said to her: “You really are a saint.” “No,” she replied, “I am just a tiny soul that God has showered his favors on. You’ll see when you get to heaven that what I am telling you is true.”
24. She wanted nothing out of the ordinary for herself, whether in the spiritual sphere or the temporal. One day I said to her: “You have loved God very much, he will do wonders for you; we will find your body incorrupt.” This idea seemed to pain her, and she answered somewhat sadly: “Oh, no; not that kind of wonder! That would be a departure from my little way of humility; ‘little souls’ must find nothing to envy in me, so you can expect to find nothing but a skeleton.”
24. Consolations were far from being the Servant of God’s ordinary fare. Once, after receiving holy communion, she said to us: “It’s like putting two babies together: babies don’t talk to one another. I did say some little thing to him, but he did not answer: I suppose he was asleep!” Her temptation against the faith did not ease off on the threshold of eternity; quite the contrary, the veil became thicker and thicker.
27. Many ordinary, simple people feel attracted to this way of love and trust in God, and find in Sister Therese’s example the encouragement they need to travel this way without fear. Such attraction of encouragement is often expressed in the letters we receive. Many communities claim to have been transformed by this “spirit of childhood”, and from all side comes the wish that her glorification would set the seal of approval on “this way of surrender and littleness.” The simple people referred to include doctors and scholars as well as the uneducated. Fr. Pichon, S. J., wrote to me on 11 May 1909: “Yes, God wants to glorify this humble little spouse. Then we shall have no choice but to become little children; it is what I am trying to do myself at 66.”
Mary of the Trinity
21. On a certain occasion the Servant of God was speaking about the “little spiritual way” she had taught me, and, just to test me, she said: “When I am dead, and you no longer have anybody to encourage you to follow my ‘little way of trust and love’ you’ll probably abandon it, won’t you?” “Certainly not,” I answered. “I believe in it so firmly that if the Pope himself were to tell me that you had been wrong, I think I could still believe in it.” “Oh! You should believe the pope before anybody else,” she replied sharply. “But don’t be afraid that he is going to tell you to change; I won’t give him time to. If, when I get to heaven, I find that I have deceived you, I will obtain permission from God to come back straight away and tell you. Till then believe that my way is safe and follow it faithfully.”
One day I asked her how she prepared for holy communion. She said: “Just as I am receiving, I sometimes imagine my soul as a child of three or four who has its clothes and hair dirtied and in disarray from playing. These misfortunes happen to me from doing battle with souls. But our Lady immediately takes charge of me. She takes off my smock, tidies my hair, and puts a pretty ribbon or, maybe, a little flower in it. That’s enough to make me sufficiently pretty again to take part in the angel’s feast without any embarrassment.”
21. One day I told her I was going to explain her “little way of love” to all my relatives and friends, and get them to make the “Act of Offering” so that they would go straight to heaven. “In that case,” she said, “be very careful; our ‘little way’ could be mistaken for quietism or illuminism if it is badly explained.” I did not know what these words meant, so I was rather taken aback, and I asked her to explain them. She told me then about a certain Mme Guyon who had strayed on to a wrong path, and added: “People must not think that our ‘little way’ is a restful one, full of sweetness and consolation. It’s quite the opposite. To offer oneself as a victim to love is to offer oneself to suffering, because love lives only on sacrifice; so, if one is completely dedicated to loving, one must expect to be sacrificed unreservedly.”
21. What she called her “little way of spiritual childhood” was a constant subject of conversation between us. She used to repeat to me that “Jesus reserved his privileges for the little ones.” She never stopped talking about the trust, self-surrender, simplicity, uprightness, and humility of the child, and always proposed it to me as a model.
One day when I expressed a desire to be stronger and more energetic, in order to practice virtue better, she said: “If God wants you to be as weak and powerless as a child, do you think your merit will be any the less for that? Resign yourself, then, to stumbling at every step, to falling, ever, and to being weak in carrying your cross. Love your powerlessness, and your soul will benefit more from it than if, aided by grace, you were to behave with enthusiastic heroism and fill your soul with self-satisfaction and pride.”
22. Sister Therese foresaw that she would be a model for a host of ordinary people (“little souls”). She often said so, with charming simplicity. One day I said to her: “I would like you to die during your thanksgiving after holy communion.” “Oh, no!” she replied. “That’s not how I want to die. That would be an extraordinary grace and would discourage ordinary folk, because they could not do likewise.”