Tuesday, October 1
On this memorial of Therese of Lisieux, it seems fitting for me, a seminarian, to quote from a book of letters she exchanged with a not-so-good seminarian who expressed a desire to serve Christ as a missionary priest.
The book is Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love, and I commend it to all those who desire a further glimpse of the love and concern of this beloved Doctor of the Church. I recommend it especially to those seminarians and priests who wish that a Carmelite nun somewhere would pray for them. I trust that St. Therese is praying for me, and I suspect that many of her Carmelite Sisters are doing likewise. And that's no small consolation as I wander this path toward the priesthood.
In one letter, Maurice promised to pray daily for Therese. And, in her reply, Therese thanks him then holds him to his word:
Since you have the goodness to do this, I would be very happy if you will agree to say this prayer for [me] every day. It sums up all [my] desires: "Merciful Father, in the name of our lovable Jesus, of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints, I ask You to set my sister on fire with Your Spirit of Love, and to grant her the grace of making You deeply loved."
You have promised to pray for me for the rest of your life. No doubt your life will be longer than mine, so you cannot sing as I do: "I hope that my exile will be brief." But you're not allowed ever to forget your promise. If the Lord takes me to Himself soon, I ask you to continue saying the same little prayer every day, because in heaven I shall want the same thing that I want on earth: to love Jesus and to make Him loved.
I don't know how often Maurice prayed that prayer, but there is no doubt that Therese's little prayer continues to be answered.
Part of me suspects that Therese bound Maurice to pray that prayer even after her death because she knew that Maurice, like many seminarians and priests, was tempted to focus too much on himself. Breaking that habit requires thinking more about others. And one step in that process is pouring oneself out in prayer for at least one other person every day. Those were the good Doctor's orders. And I take them to heart.
Merciful Father, in the name of our lovable Jesus, of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints, I ask You to set my brothers and sisters on fire with Your Spirit of Love, and to grant them the grace of making You deeply loved. Amen.