Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Therese of Lisieux on God's Grace

Lutherans are generally not accustomed to discussions of St. Therese of Lisieux, nor do they tend to know much about her. She far postdates the Reformation, and lived her whole short life, after childhood, in the seclusion of a Carmelite monastery in rural nineteenth century France, and so she does not have a natural place on the radar of conventional Lutheran thought. Since I am not a conventional Lutheran, allow me to break with convention. Father Wilhelm Loehe in the nineteenth century was wise enough and spiritually insightful enough to recognize that it is possible, even profitable, for Lutherans to include non-Lutherans in their devotion, so that in his martyrology he could include such people as St. Theresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite mystic of the sixteenth century. Likewise, I suggest that today we would do well to consider the life and sufferings of another Carmelite, Therese of Lisieux, who called herself Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Her life and way of thought inspired in the last century the French writer Georges Bernanos to write his brilliant novel, The Diary of a Country Priest, the protagonist of which is in some important ways modeled after Therese. When I get time, there is much I would like to say on that book. More importantly, Therese herself deserves to be introduced to Lutheran circles, so I will devote some blog space for that purpose.

For now, let me share some juicy bits from her autobiography, Story of a Soul, which I find myself again reading lately. I'm thinking I might share some of it here, bit by bit, in Weedon fashion.

At the beginning of her writing, she admits her perplexity that God would give so much grace to someone as unworthy as her. In considering this, she writes:

"Then opening the Holy Gospels my eyes fell on these words: 'And going up a mountain, he called to him men of his own choosing, and they came to him.' This is the mystery of my vocation, my whole life, and especially the mystery of the privileges Jesus showered on my soul. He does not call those who are worthy but those whom He pleases or as St. Paul says: God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will show pity to whom he will show pity. So then there is question not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy."

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