RE: Peter Kreeft
To the responses on St. Therese Lisieux:
Thank you for the responses. It had been a while since I'd read Story of a Soul or her poetry. I understand better what you see in the quotes chosen in this website from her writings and Celine's. My fault lies in not checking to see we are using the same definition of terms. I have submitted myself to the classical definition of "vocation", which has always meant that one is either called: to serve God in marriage (self-explanatory); to serve God as a single person (living in the world celibately); or to serve God in dedicated ministry (the renunciation of the world - so to speak - and taking vows of an order of nuns, sisters, or brothers, friars, and priests or taking vows as part of the diocesan community). As you both stated, she does say that at one time she wished she could have been a priest. She is very poetic in describing her feelings and struggles in Story of a Soul chapter 5 in discussing her vocation to serve God, but nowhere in her writings does she ever claim that: 1) she should be ordained a priest, 2) that the Church should change this teaching regarding priestly ordination, and 3)she felt her vocation as a nun was less in importance than priests. I hope the excerpts below (1st from Story of a Soul, and the 2nd is her poem Answer From the Child Jesus):
…Pauline was the only one who encouraged me in my vocation; Marie thought I was too young, and you, dear Mother, no doubt to prove me, tried to restrain my ardour. From the start I encountered nothing but difficulties. Then, too, I dared not speak of it to Céline, and this silence pained me deeply; it was so hard to have a secret she did not share.
However, this dear sister soon found out my intention, and, far from wishing to keep me back, she accepted the sacrifice with wonderful courage. As she also wished to be a nun, she ought to have been given the first opportunity; but, imitating the martyrs of old, who used joyfully to embrace those chosen to go before them into the arena, she allowed me to leave her, and took my troubles as much to heart as if it were a question of her own vocation. From Céline, then, I had nothing to fear, but I did not know how to set about telling Papa. How could his little Queen talk of leaving him when he had already parted with his two eldest daughters? Moreover, this year he had been stricken with a serious attack of paralysis, and though he recovered quickly we were full of anxiety for the future…
..On October 31, 1887, alone with Papa, I started for Bayeux, my heart full of hope, but also excited at the idea of presenting myself at the Bishop's house. For the first time in my life, I was going to pay a visit without any of my sisters, and this to a Bishop. I, who had never yet had to speak except to answer questions addressed to me, would have to explain and enlarge on my reasons for begging to enter the Carmel, and so give proofs of the genuineness of my vocation…
CHAPTER XI A CANTICLE OF LOVE
It is not only when He is about to send me some trial that Our Lord gives me warning and awakens my desire for it. For years I had cherished a longing which seemed impossible of realisation--to have a brother a Priest. I often used to think that if my little brothers had not gone to Heaven, I should have had the happiness of seeing them at the Altar. I greatly regretted being deprived of this joy. Yet God went beyond my dream; I only asked for one brother who would remember me each day at the Holy Altar, and He has united me in the bonds of spiritual friendship with two of His apostles…
… Last year, at the end of May, it was your turn to give me my second brother, and when I represented that, having given all my merits to one future apostle, I feared they could not be given to another, you told me that obedience would double their value. In the depths of my heart I thought the same thing, and, since the zeal of a Carmelite ought to embrace the whole world, I hope, with God's help, to be of use to even more than two missionaries. I pray for all, not forgetting our Priests at home, whose ministry is quite as difficult as that of the missionary preaching to the heathen. . . . In a word, I wish to be a true daughter of the Church, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, and pray for all the intentions of Christ's Vicar. That is the one great aim of my life. But just as I should have had a special interest in my little brothers had they lived, and that, without neglecting the general interests of the Church, so now, I unite myself in a special way to the new brothers whom Jesus has given me. All that I possess is theirs also. God is too good to give by halves; He is so rich that He gives me all I ask for, even though I do not lose myself in lengthy enumerations. As I have two brothers and my little sisters, the novices, the days would be too short were I to ask in detail for the needs of each soul, and I fear I might forget something important…
O my Beloved! this was but the prelude of graces yet greater which Thou didst desire to heap upon me. Let me remind Thee of them to-day, and forgive my folly if I venture to tell Thee once more of my hopes, and my heart's well nigh infinite longings--forgive me and grant my desire, that it may be well with my soul. To be Thy Spouse, O my Jesus, to be a daughter of Carmel, and by my union with Thee to be the mother of souls, should not all this content me? And yet other vocations make themselves felt--I feel called to the Priesthood and to the Apostolate --I would be a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church. I should like to accomplish the most heroic deeds--the spirit of the Crusader burns within me, and I long to die on the field of battle in defence of Holy Church.
The vocation of a Priest! With what love, my Jesus, would I bear Thee in my hand, when my words brought Thee down from Heaven! With what love would I give Thee to souls! And yet, while longing to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, and am drawn to imitate him by refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood. How reconcile these opposite tendencies?
Like the Prophets and Doctors, I would be a light unto souls, I would travel to every land to preach Thy name, O my Beloved, and raise on heathen soil the glorious standard of Thy Cross. One mission alone would not satisfy my longings. I would spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, even to the most distant isles. I would be a Missionary, not for a few years only, but, were it possible, from the beginning of the world till the consummation of time. Above all, I thirst for the Martyr's crown. It was the desire of my earliest days, and the desire has deepened with the years passed in the Carmel's narrow cell. But this too is folly, since I do not sigh for one torment; I need them all to slake my thirst. Like Thee, O Adorable Spouse, I would be scourged, I would be crucified! I would be flayed like St. Bartholomew, plunged into boiling oil like St. John, or, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, ground by the teeth of wild beasts into a bread worthy of God.
With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia I would offer my neck to the sword of the executioner, and like Joan of Arc I would murmur the name of Jesus at the stake.
My heart thrills at the thought of the frightful tortures Christians are to suffer at the time of Anti-Christ, and I long to undergo them all. Open, O Jesus, the Book of Life, in which are written the deeds of Thy Saints: all the deeds told in that book I long to have accomplished for Thee. To such folly as this what answer wilt Thou make? Is there on the face of this earth a soul more feeble than mine? And yet, precisely because I am feeble, it has delighted Thee to accede to my least and most child-like desires, and to-day it is Thy good pleasure to realise those other desires, more vast than the Universe. These aspirations becoming a true martyrdom, I opened, one day, the Epistles of St. Paul to seek relief in my sufferings. My eyes fell on the 12th and 13th chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. I read that all cannot become Apostles, Prophets, and Doctors; that the Church is composed of different members; that the eye cannot also be the hand. The answer was clear, but it did not fulfill my desires, or give to me the peace I sought. "Then descending into the depths of my nothingness, I was so lifted up that I reached my aim."
Without being discouraged I read on, and found comfort in this counsel: "Be zealous for the better gifts. And I show unto you a yet more excellent way." The Apostle then explains how all perfect gifts are nothing without Love, that Charity is the most excellent way of going surely to God. At last I had found rest.
Meditating on the mystical Body of Holy Church, I could not recognise myself among any of its members as described by St. Paul, or was it not rather that I wished to recognise myself in all? Charity provided me with the key to my vocation. I understood that since the Church is a body composed of different members, the noblest and most important of all the organs would not be wanting. I knew that the Church has a heart, that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone which gives life to its members. I knew that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it is eternal.
Then, beside myself with joy, I cried out: "O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! Yes, I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be LOVE! . . . Thus I shall be all things: thus will my dream be realised. . . ."
LETTERS OF SOEUR THÉRÈSE TO HER SISTER CÉLINE
… Our vocation is not to go forth and reap in Our Father's fields. Jesus does not say to us: "Look down and reap the harvest." Our mission is even more sublime. "Lift up your eyes and see," saith our Divine Master, "see how in Heaven there are empty thrones. It is for you to fill them. . . . You are as Moses praying on the mountain, so ask Me for labourers and they shall be sent. I only await a prayer, a sigh! Is not the apostolate of prayer--so to speak--higher than that of the spoken word? It is for us by prayer to train workers who will spread the glad tidings of the Gospel and who will save countless souls--the souls to whom we shall be the spiritual Mothers. What, then, have we to envy in the Priests of the Lord?
ANSWER OF THE CHILD JESUS. (by St. Therese of Lisieux)
Dear Angel of My childhood's hours!
I grant the answer to thy prayer.
Many shall be the innocent flowers
I will preserve all lily-fair.
Yes, I will cull those blossoms gay,
Fresh with their pure baptismal dew;
And they shall bloom in endless day,
In ecstasy forever new.
Their fair corollas, silvery bright,
More brilliant than a thousand fires,
Shall be the Milky Way of light
'Mid all the starry heavenly choirs.
I must have lilies for My crown, '
The Lily of the Field am I!
And I must have to grace my throne,
A sheaf of lilies in the sky.
The Angel of the Holy Face asks pardon for sinners.
ANSWER OF THE CHILD JESUS.
Dear Angel of the Eucharist!
Thou, thou dost charm Me every hour;
Thy song, by heaven's own breezes kissed,
Over My suffering soul hath power.
Ah, the great thirst of My desires!
I crave, I crave, the hearts of men.
Dear Angel, melt them with thy fires,
And win them to My Heart again!
Would each anointed priest might be
Like Seraphim beyond the skies,
What time he comes to offer Me
My pure and holy Sacrifice!
To work such miracle of grace,
It needs must be that night and day,
Souls near the altar seek a place
To watch and suffer, weep and pray.
The Angel of the Resurrection asks what will become of the poor exiled ones left on earth when the Saviour shall have ascended into heaven.
ANSWER OF THE CHILD JESUS.
Back to My Father I shall go,
Thither to draw the men I love;
And heaven's long bliss they then shall know,
When I shall welcome them above.
When the last hour of time appears,
My flock shall come again to Me;
And I shall be, for endless years,
Their Light, their Life, their Ecstasy