[rose]

St. Therese

Act of Oblation to Merciful Love



Questions and Answers Regarding the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love

taken from:

"Tested by Fire"
The Little Catechism of the
Act of Oblation
of St. Therese of the Child Jesus

"Oh Jesus! why can't I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy...Yes, I know it, and I beg you to do it. I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a LEGION of little Victims worthy of Your Love."

CONTENTS

Forward to First Edition by the Carmelites of Lisieux
Forward to Present Edition by a servant of Divine Mercy
About this Catechism
Questions and Answers
Before the Oblation to God's Merciful Love: Insights and Preliminary Ideas

1. What is the object of this Act of Oblation?
2. How may we make this compensation to God?
3. Does not this Act aim at other intentions?
4. What is the origin of this Act?
5. Why the expression Merciful Love?
6. In what dispositions should the soul be found who desires to draw down to itself this Merciful Love?
7. Should the soul not first try to correct its faults, or at least to improve oneself in some way?
8. Why the word Victim?
9. What is meant by the word Holocaust?
10. Doubtless this is what she calls a martyrdom?
11. But may we not think in our humility: I am not called to those heights... that Act is not for me?
12. Has not the soul who makes the Act of Oblation a secret hope of reward?
13. Does not this Act nevertheless obtain for the soul some personal advantages?
14. Does not this Act also arouse a zeal for souls?
15. Will all the Victims of Love share in the same privileges?
16. Will these perfect Vicitms of Love be very many?
17. Might it not be preferable through fear of infidelity to renounce entering the Legion of childlike souls, Victims of Love?
After the Oblation to Merciful Love
18. What is the interior disposition essential in order to live as a fervent Victim of Love?
19. But what is the soul's part of the work -- her active cooperation with Merciful Love?
20. What are the most serious obstacles to this fervent life of Love?
21. Does that mean that the Victim of Love will never grow weak at least on those two points?
22. What then will be the means by which the Victim of Love may attain to sanctity?
23. And from what source here below will this constant Life of Love be nourished?
24. By what external sign will the sincerity of this Life of Love be revealed?
25. Do Victims of Love devote themselves by virtue of their Act to exceptional sufferings?
26. Had St. Therese then in view a disposition more perfect that the desire of suffering?
27. Is it on that account that our Saint calls the Victim of Love a "happy victim?"
28. In a word, may we not conclude that the Act of Oblation of God's Merciful Love obtains true happiness for the soul-victim?
29. To die of Love, would that mean then to die in transports of Joy?
30. What, then, is the meaning of the expression to die of Love?
31. To be a true Victim of Love, is it necessary to recite frequently the Act of Oblation composed by St. Therese of the Child Jesus?

FORWARD OF FIRST EDITION

The object of this Little Catechism is to reply to the many inquiries made by persons who are anxious to imitate St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of the good God.

It seems useful both for the enlightenment and the consolation of a great number, to fix more definitely in accordance with the original texts of the Saint and the instructions she gave to her novices, her attitude of mind on the subject of this Act, new in the Annals of Holy Church, and which burst spontaneously from her heart at the full height of her spiritual life.

"Oceans of graces," according to her admission, "flooded my soul since the happy day...." (June 9, 1895) The dream of our Saint was to procure the same benefit for all souls of good will, sincerely desirous of loving the good God and of pleasing Him.

May these humble pages bear to all, together with their encouragement, her pressing invitation to taste for themselves, by a happy experience, the sweetness of the Divine Mercies.

The Carmelites of Lisieux (1932)


FORWARD TO PRESENT EDITION


St. Therese of Lisieux composed her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love on June 9, 1895. My purpose in republishing the LITTLE CATECHISM is to bring forward once again her desire for a "Legion of souls" who would imitate her by offering themselves to Merciful Love. Her offering is a full grown oak nurtured by the many graces in Therese's life.

My own journey with Therese could not be covered here, but I would like to share an incident I experienced at a time when following the example of Therese was very difficult for me. Because of my weaknesses, I did not believe I could imitate the life of Therese, one apparently so faultless. Yet, this was a misunderstanding of her life as she was simply following the Gospel message.

One day I was reflecting on her words of having confidence even in the midst of failures. I asked her if the confidence she advised in her Autobiography could be mine even despite my failures. If so, please send me a real rose as proof!! At the last moment of the day, I received not just one rose, but a whole armful of roses. Under very unusual circumstances, someone had just picked roses from her garden and had given them to me, unaware of the challenge I had given Therese.

I, then, invite you to this confidence. Today God wants to send a deluge upon our world. And to do this He wants you and me. This flood is not to be of water this time, but the torrent of His Merciful Love in the hearts of each and everyone. Again, as told in Scripture, to destroy sin and evil and make a new creation of our hearts. Therese expresses this in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love: "I offer myself as a Victim of Holocaust to Your Merciful love...allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul...O my God!"

This is the Hour of Mercy. We can hasten the reign of Mercy in the world by lovingly offering ourselves to Divine Mercy as explained in these pages...so it will be seen that, "The Lord is God." (1Kings 18:37, Jerusalem Bible)

A servant of Divine Mercy
DIVINE MERCY HERMITAGE
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity - 1995

ABOUT THIS CATECHISM

Because this is an earlier work, some adaptations have been done in this edition regarding style and terminology in order to facilitate smoother reading (see footnote). The more serious consideration, however, centers on the use of the words Victim and Holocaust. Both words evoke the horrors of this century, and the violence that bombard our lives. We all know someone who has been victimized in some degree.

The words Victime d' Holocauste used by St. Therese of Lisieux do not reflect the meaning the media has given it today. In trying to bridge this gap, I will give the definitions found in a dictionary and a recently published Thesaurus.

In the Thesaurus, "victim" is synonymous with sacrifice, offering and immolation. This matches the definition of victim in Webster's dictionary: a religious sacrifice of a living being to a deity. Victim, in the Dictionary of the Bible and Concordance, refers the reader to the word sacrifice.

The Thesaurus defines victimize as: abuse, cheat, defraud, hurt, swindle, mistreat; and the second definition of victim in the dictionary also has this meaning.

Please keep in mind that for our purposes, the definition of victim is an offering to a deity, and is the one that applies to the Act of Oblation of St. Therese. This will become clearer as one goes deeper into her doctrine.

The heroic practice of offering oneself to God as a "victim of Justice" had developed in the Church. Unfortunately, during the time of Therese, the heresy of Jansenism gave this practice an aspect of appeasing the anger of a vengeful God. One day Therese heard an account of a sister who had offered herself to God as a victim of Justice. As the account was being read her own blood sister, Sr. Agnes, looked at Therese and noticed that she had an agonized look on her face. Soon after, as the quotation further on will relate, Therese composed her Offering to God's Merciful Love.

Ordinarily, the concept of victim involves suffering, whether faultless as in an accident, or caused by some criminal act. In the religious sphere, the idea of suffering becomes even more intense, for in offering oneself as a victim to God one is asking to take on the debt of another in imitation of Jesus our Redeemer. This should only be done under the influence of grace after consulting a spiritual guide.

Therese welcomed suffering and learned to sanctify it by uniting it to Jesus, but her sensitive heart inclined her not to focus on that aspect in her Oblation to God. She wanted to direct her offering to alleviate God's unrequited Love. You might say, the "pledge of love" not received by others.

And so, Therese made her offering to God as a religious act, to honor God's attribute of Merciful Love. The "living being" as noted above in the definition was the voluntary and loving gift of herself. She consecrated her life in response to God's Love. It sprang from a willing eagerness urged on by her love for God.

Here, then, are Therese's own words: "This year June 9, (1895) the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, I received the grace to understand more than ever before how much Jesus desires to be loved. I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God's Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sinners, drawing them upon themselves. This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it.

From the depths of my heart, I cried out: 'O my God! will Your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does not Your Merciful Love need them too? On every side this love is unknown, rejected; those hearts upon whom You would lavish it turn to creatures, seeking happiness from them with their miserable affection; they do this instead of throwing themselves into Your arms and of accepting Your infinite Love. O my God! Is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You. If Your Justice loves to release itself, this Justice which extends only over the earth, how much more does Your Merciful Love desire to set souls on fire, since Your Mercy reaches to the heavens. O my Jesus, let me be this happy victim; consume Your holocaust with the fire of Your Divine Love.'"

We find in Scripture a model of Therese's offering, in the sacrifice offered to God by Elijah. The pleasing fragrance of the prophet's faith and confidence, wrought the theophany of fire from heaven to such an extent as to consume not only the victim, but also the altar, the stones and even the water in the trenches. Elijah's prayer was: "Yahweh, answer me, Yahweh, let them know today that You are God in Israel...answer me, Yahweh, answer me, so that this people may know that You, Yahweh, are God and winning back their hearts."
(I Kings 18: 36-37, J.B.)

With the ratification received by her canonization, the recent declaration proclaiming her Doctor of the Church, and her worldwide influence, for good among all people - truly, we can see that God has consumed Therese in His Merciful Love. She thus receives her mission to be a vessel of that Love, fulfilling her deathbed promise: "I want to spend my Heaven in doing good on earth."

I invite you, to pursue the following questions and answers, which gather the thoughts of our Saint pertaining to her devotion to Merciful Love. I hope that this little work will be the first "lick of the ice cream cone" - the rest being all the available books and writings of Therese. In these books she guides us into Scripture, where we can discover the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. There we learn the truth that the lowly will be exalted, the last will be first, to save our life, we must lose it...and like St. Paul, become all things to all people.

Footnote: Pronouns Thee and Thou have been changed to You; using "the soul, etc." in place of "she" or "her"; ICS translation for quotes from the Story of A Soul; Jerusalem Bible translation for Scripture; references have been placed in the body of text; additon of new Forward and Introduction; Tested By Fire has been added to the Title; some minor alteration, e.g. punctuation.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I. BEFORE THE OBLATION TO GOD'S MERCIFUL LOVE

INSIGHTS AND PRELIMINARY IDEAS

1. What is the object of this Act of Oblation?

It is to compensate the good God for the refusal which His creatures oppose to the Love that He desires to shower upon them.

2. How may we make this compensation to God?

By offering our hearts "allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow" them. (All quotations without references are drawn from the Autobiography of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and other sources of her writings.)

3. Does not this Act aim at other intentions?

Many others are mentioned, it is true, but they are all included in the essential object which we have just stated.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus says on this point: "I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally."

It should be remarked that her desire to save souls is but a secondary intention; for if she wishes to save them it is less for their personal happiness than to procure love for the good of God.

4. What is the origin of this Act?

St. Therese of the Child Jesus tells us in her Autobiography: "This year, June 9, (1895) the Feast of the Holy Trinity, I received the grace to understand more than ever before how much Jesus desires to be loved. I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God's Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sinners, drawing them upon themselves. This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it. From the depths of my heart, I cried out! O my God! Will Your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does not Your Merciful Love need them too? On every side this love is unknown, rejected; those hearts upon whom You would lavish it turn to creatures seeking happiness from them with their miserable affection; they do this instead of throwing themselves into Your arms and accepting Your infinite Love. O my God! is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You. If your justice loves to release itself, this Justice which extends only over the earth, how much more does Your Merciful Love desire to s et souls on fire since Your Mercy reaches to the heavens. O my Jesus, let me be this happy victim; consume Your holocaust with the fire of Your Divine Love!"

5. Why the expression Merciful Love?

Mercy, according to the graceful Latin etymology given by St. Augustine: "Miseriscordare," means:" to give one's heart to the wretched." The soul, then, that offers itself to the Merciful Love of God appeals by its very miseries to that inexplicable tendency of the Divine Heart, which inclines irresistibly to outpour its Mercy without measure on the abject and the lowly. "I will smelt away your dross in the furnace, I will remove all your base metal from you." (Isaiah 1:25, J.B.)

6. In what dispositions should the soul be found who desires to draw down to itself this Merciful Love?

In a disposition of trustful humility. The soul should offer itself to the good God as an empty vessel so that He may let the flood-tide of His Love flow into it, or as a fire ready set, waiting for His kindling, that His torrent of flames may consume the victim as it desires.

7. Should the soul not first try to correct its faults, or at least to improve oneself in some way?

No, it is not necessary. The soul gives itself without preparation. It is useless to want to begin by having perfect fruit -- by removing its defects beforehand. Love, in cooperation, will do this work.

8. Why the word Victim?

By the word Victim, St. Therese meant to denote a complete oblation of herself to Divine Love; she desired that all personal life should disappear, as though it were absorbed by this Love. Again, she used the expression Victim of Love in opposition to Victim of Justice in a spontaneous outburst from her sensitive heart; she did not wish the most beautiful attribute of God to be less favored than the other, which has long had its victims.

9. What is meant by the word Holocaust?

Holocaust, to the Saint's mind, meant that the soul "plunged in the rapturous fire of God's Infinite Love" aspires, ardently desires, to be wholly consumed, and to be so transformed as to become fire itself at the permanent contact of the Divine Fire.

10. Doubtless this is what she calls a martyrdom?

According to the expression of St. Therese, the martyrdom of her life is the state of soul created by the infinite tenderness of God overflowing without measure into a human heart necessarily limited: "asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!" She completes the expression of her thought: "May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die!" This disproportion, between the infinite tenderness of God and the finite heart of the poor little creature, will one day break the frail web; it is the death of love.

11. But may we not think in our humility: I am not called to those heights... that Act is not for me?

Listen to St. Therese: "It is my weakness that gives me the boldness of offering myself as Victim of Your Love." And again: "The weaker and more miserable we are, the better are we fitted for the operations of this consuming and transforming Love." And it may be said that Therese, like Jesus, came to win to God's Merciful Love "not the virtuous, but sinners." (Matt. 9:13, J.B.) "In times past," exclaims the Saint, "Victims pure and spotless, were the only ones accepted by the Strong and Powerful God. To satisfy Divine Justice, perfect victims were necessary, but the law of Love has succeeded to the law of fear, and Love has chosen me as a holocaust, me, a weak and imperfect creature. Is not this choice worthy of Love? Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that It lower Itself, and that It lower Itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire." Let us remember that what Therese did, all little souls may do. Did she not say: "O Jesus, I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors."

12. Has not the soul who makes the Act of Oblation a secret hope of reward?

Our Saint replies in the formula of the Act: "I do not want to lay up merits for heaven...In the evening of life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works." And again she says; "It is not the riches and glory, even the glory of Heaven, that my heart seeks; what I ask for is Love." It is not to seek her own beauty that she begs our Lord to consume at once all her imperfections in the fire of His Love. It is solely that she may retain the privilege of being able to give Him joy, of making some compensation to His Divine Heart: "I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself."

13. Does not this Act nevertheless obtain for the soul some personal advantages?

Yes, although our Saint did not seek them directly, her motives being far removed from all personal interest, these are in her own thoughts, the principle advantages:

  • A continual purification of the soul, whose imperfections are constantly consumed by Love: "Ah! since that happy day," writes St. Therese, "it seems to me that Love penetrates and surrounds me...leaving no trace of sin."
  • A higher perfection stamped on all the details of life: "When a soul is wholly consecrated to Love, all her actions, even the most indifferent, are marked by this Divine seal."
  • A constant and ever more enlightening effusion of Truth -- i.e., of humility -- for this Love is light as well as heat. "My soul is all shining and gilded," declared St. Therese, "because it is exposed to the rays of Love. If this Divine Sun withheld from me His rays, my soul would immediately become obscured and enveloped in darkness." This light preserves in the soul the sense ever more relished of its littleness and nothingness, and at the same time, of the Divine Mercy. The soul feels with our Saint: "What pleases God - better than the most generous aspirations - is to see me love my littleness and my poverty; my blind trust in His Mercy. This is my only treasure."
  • After its having lived a life of Love the soul will: take its "flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love." -- therefore without passing through Purgatory. St. Therese promises that "for Victims of Love there will be no judgment, but rather the good God will hasten to reward with eternal delights the love for Him which He will see burning in their hearts. The Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of Purgatory."

14. Does not this Act also arouse a zeal for souls?

Yes, it procures for the soul surrendered unreservedly to Divine Love, an immense apostolic influence; and this by virtue of the privileged place that the Act rightly wins for her in the bosom of the Church. "In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be Love," may the soul repeat with St. Therese. Thanks to it, "she will be all" contributing everywhere and in all times to all the advances and victories on the Mission-field. "Love comprises all vocations." Love alone is the motive-power for all the members of the Church. It embraces all times and all places, because it is eternal. The efficacy of its hidden influence cannot be surpassed by any other activity. Our Saint likes to assure us with St. John of the Cross that : "The smallest act of pure love is of greater value to the Church than all other works united together." (Spiritual Canticle)

15. Will all the Victims of Love share in the same privileges?

All victim-souls are consumed, transformed by Love, and irradiate it, but only in the proportion in which they surrender themselves, i.e., according as they allow the Divine Love full freedom, and all its intensity of action. St. Therese forewarns her disciples: "The soul is consumed by Love only in so far as it surrenders itself to Love." But just as "there are many rooms in my Father's house," (Jn 14:2, J.B) so may there also be many degrees in the donation of oneself. If all souls, Victims of Love, have a place in Love's furnace, it is possible, nevertheless, that some do not fully expose themselves to its flames. Yet, they have more graces than those who never entered it; God surrounds them with a special tenderness up to the last moment of their exile. For those who put no limit to the effusion of Divine Love, the good God will also -- as for St. Therese -- work "wonders which will infinitely surpass their immense desires."

16. Will these perfect Victims of Love be very many?

They may be Legion, since St. Therese -- and with her the Vicar of Jesus Christ Himself, His Holiness Pius XI in the course of the solemn function of her Canonization -- implored the Lord "to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your Love." Our Saint has also assured us that "thus my dreams will be realized."

17. Might it not be preferable through fear of infidelity to renounce entering the Legion of childlike souls, Victims of Love?

Certainly not, no more than Holy Church renounces to confer Baptism on a child of whose perseverance there is no assurance. On the contrary, the Church enrolls it in her ranks, happy to have marked it with the seal of the Redemption, to have immersed one of the redeemed in the fountain of grace. Thus, also, the oblation as Victim to the Merciful Love of God remains a source of abundant blessings for the soul who enters the Legion with a sincere heart, be it but for a moment. If, however, in addition to the merit of the Act, we wish to add that of obedience, and thus have an assured guide in this undertaking -- which it would be regrettable to perform lightly-- it may be wise to consult a director; approval will always be a great security, and the encouragement strength for the faithful soul.


II. AFTER THE OBLATION TO MERCIFUL LOVE


18. What is the interior disposition essential in order to live as a fervent Victim of Love?

St. Therese replies: "The desire alone to be a victim will suffice." a sincere and persevering desire, sustained by the firm hope of obtaining from the good God, together with a full effusion of His Love, all the graces necessary to return Him love for Love. It is in this sense that the Victim of Love repeats with St. Therese in her Act of Oblation: "I am certain, than, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire."

19. But what is the soul's part of the work -- her active cooperation with Merciful Love?

The soul-victim of Love has a double task to fulfill; one very active, the other apparently passive, but no less generous. The first duty is to aim at an ever-increasing humility, to strive unceasingly to clear one's heart of encumbrances, to maintain it absolutely empty of confidence in self, and all vain seeking after creatures. "We must consent to remain always poor and without strength; there lies the difficulty, for where shall be found the truly poor in spirit? He must be sought afar off," (see: Imitation of Christ) - that is to say in lowliness, in nothingness." She says elsewhere, "In order to enjoy the treasures of Merciful Love,we must humble ourselves, must acknowledge our nothingness, and that is what many souls are not willing to do." The second duty for the soul victim is to tend ever more and more to "the self-abandonment of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father's arms." This attitude of spiritual childhood rightly deserves the name of Victim, for "nothing so completely immolates self in man as to become sincerely little." (Msgr. Gay) St. Therese is not afraid to affirm that "this abandonment alone really surrenders the soul into the arms of Jesus," and thus allows His Love to act freely and according to the full extent of its force. That is why in her challenge to the soul weaker than her own, she confidently asserts that it will receive favors still greater than those showered on herself, provided that the soul abandon itself with full confidence to the infinite Mercy of the good God.

20. What are the most serious obstacles to this fervent life of Love?

The Author of the Imitation of Christ replies with St. Therese: "So soon as a man seeks himself, does he fall away from love." (Imit. III) That is so because we re-furnish our hearts, they are no longer empty, and the place offered to Love is thereby diminished. The Imitation also adds: "Whoever is not ready to suffer all things and to stand resigned to the will of His Beloved, is not worthy to called a lover."

21. Does that mean that the Victim of Love will never grow weak at least on those two points?

No; and St. Therese, herself, reassuringly tells us so. "True," she says,"one can fall, or commit infidelities, but knowing how to draw profit from everything, love quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus; it leaves nothing but a humble and profound peace in the depths of the heart." The soul then can find itself below its aspirations without ceasing to be very pleasing to the good God. If at each fall you have recourse to sincere humility, one progresses in fervor, for then Love finds the empty vessel which it seeks. Our Saint confidently assures us: "in an act of Love, even though not felt, all is repaired, and more than repaired."

22. What then will be the means by which the Victim of Love may attain to sanctity?

Soul-victims depend solely and in all circumstances on Love, hoping for all virtue from the infinite power and liberality of this Merciful Love, to which they have given themselves without reserve. They know their "inability to ascend by their own efforts even the first step of the ladder of sanctity," but they "know Who it is that they have put their trust." (see: 2 Tim. 1:12) and repeat to Our Lord according to the formula of St. Therese's Act of Oblation: "I desire to be a saint, but feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity...All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself."

23. And from what source here below will this constant Live of Love be nourished?

The Divine Source from whence the soul-victim will draw life will be Holy Communion; this is the unrivaled invention of the Merciful Love of the good God, ever eager to intermingle with human misery. By her Act of Oblation, St. Therese desired to see this mysterious and incomparable "fusion" prolonged and intensified during every moment of her life, saying to God with humble daring: "With confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire but, Lord, are You not all-powerful? Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from your little victim."

24. By what external sign will the sincerity of this Life of Love be revealed?

By a constant increase of love of our neighbor; this is the inevitable effect of a sincere love of God. St. Therese confides to us that it was after her Oblation to Merciful Love she received the grace to understand in its full extent the great precept of charity. She made it her study above all else to love God and it was in loving Him that she gradually discovered the secrets of His new commandment...that we love one another as Jesus Himself loved us. (see: Story of a Soul chapter 10 and Jn. 13:14) "The more I am united to Him (Jesus), the more also do I love all my sisters." Like Therese the true Victim of Holocaust delivered up to the consuming fire of Divine Love may repeat: "O Jesus, since this sweet flame consumes my heart, I run with joy in the way of Your New Commandment."

25. Do Victims of Love devote themselves by virtue of their Act to exceptional sufferings?

They aim only at Love; "Be ambitious for the higher gifts." (1 Cor. 12:31, J.B.) They abandon themselves to the MERCIFUL LOVE of the good God -- that is to say, love, tender and compassionate -- without other desire than to love Him and make others love Him, without thinking of themselves or of what may happen to them. "It is the child who surrenders itself to the will of the Father, to suffer or enjoy according to the good pleasure of His Love." (Not Impossible to be a Saint, Carmel of Lisieux)

26. Had St. Therese then in view a disposition more perfect that the desire of suffering?

Yes, and from the first lines of the Act of Oblation she specifies it "I desire to accomplish Your Will perfectly." At the end of her life, our Saint confirms her opinion on this point: "I can no longer ask for anything with fervor except the accomplishment of God's Will in my soul...neither do I desire any longer suffering or death and still I love them both...I desired them for a long time...and believed I had touched the shores of Heaven...now abandonment alone guides me. I have no other compass!" And on her deathbed she repeats: "I don't love one thing more than another...what God prefers and chooses for me, that is what pleases me more."

27. Is it on that account that our Saint calls the Victim of Love a "happy victim?"

Yes, it is just because the self-abandonment, "delicious fruit of Love," (St. Augustine) is sweetness even in suffering. Love, indeed, "makes sweet that which is most bitter." (Imitation of Christ) Doubtless, "it has its times of trial as well as its times of enjoyment," (Imitation of Christ) but it always possesses the singular privilege of being able to transform sorrow into joy, a non-sensitive joy perhaps as this Love itself, but "superior to all joy." This is what St. Therese had experienced when she used to sing: "Yes, suffering borne with love is happiness most pure...my joy is to love suffering." It is perfect joy -- exquisite flower of Love, that she foresees as the lot of the happy Victims of her Legion. This she wishes to bequeath to her sisters as a last pledge of her sisterly tenderness: "I do not promise you that you will be spared trials," she told them before departing for Hea ven, "but I shall make you love them, and you will come to say with me: 'You have given me, O Lord, delight in Your doings.'" (Ps. 91,5 J.B.)

28. In a word, may we not conclude that the Act of Oblation of God's Merciful Love obtains true happiness for the soul-victim?

Yes, the soul-victim, calling down upon itself the infinite tenderness of the good God, has everything to gain in interior peace and joy; for Divine Love invading a human heart brings to it all the germs of happiness. Moreover, the Act of Oblation in surrendering the soul to God's Merciful Love guarantees that this Love "will have compassion on its weakness, will treat it -- at every turn throughout all the vicissitudes of exile -- with tenderness, with Mercy..." and a sovereign liberality. St. Therese proclaimed it in the last trial, (see: Story of a Soul) which on her own avowal took from her "all feeling of enjoyment. Never did I so feel that the Lord is sweet and merciful." And already gone down into the anguish and shadow of death, she still repeated like a song of victory: "I do not regret having surrendered myself to Love. Oh no! I don't regret it; just the opposite!" (Story of a Soul - Epilogue)

29. To die of Love, would that mean then to die in transports of Joy?

If a death of love implies for the soul-victim a fundamental disposition of peace and loving confidence, yet it does not suppose the suppression of the sufferings which are in death the tribute of sin. St. Therese calls our attention to this -- she who received a very large share of redemptive sufferings: "Our Lord died on the Cross in anguish, and yet His was the most beautiful death of love. To die of love does not mean to die in transports." She made a point of warning her sisters of this at the beginning of her illness: "Do not be troubled little Sisters," she told them, "if I suffer very much, and if you see in me...no sign of joy at the moment of my death. Our Lord really died as a Victim of Love, and see what His agony was!" The sufferings of the last moments are dispensed to each soul differently according to the designs of Divine Wisdom. But they are, nevertheless, made lighter for Victims of Love by the certainty that He in whom they have blindly trusted "will grant them courage in proportion to their sufferings." They have a right to repeat with St. Therese: " I have no fear if my sufferings increase, because God will at the same time increase my patience."

30. What, then, is the meaning of the expression to die of Love?

According to the mind of St. Therese, and without presuming to explain what must remain a secret of Divine Mercy, the expression "to die of Love" means that at the final hour God will let the ocean of His infinite tenderness flow in torrents on the victim of the Holocaust; thus He will prepare her in an "instant" to appear before Him, and will suddenly break the slender web of her life under the pressure of His Love." (see: writings of St. John of the Cross) Because it is the hour of extremist misery for all the children of Adam, this hour of distress will appeal to the Merciful Love of the Heavenly Father and cause an outpouring of His infinite tenderness beyond all measure, on the little Victim, to the point of transforming the soul into Itself in an eternal embrace. This death wholly of Love, magnificent conclusion to an earthly existence, is not necessarily felt nor externally manifested; there may be no outward signs of joy, nor even of full consciousness or devotion. But how may we not infallibly believe it to take place, when the faithful Victim shall have hoped for it from the Mercy of the good God; for He is magnificent in His rewards -- "Whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." (Eph 3:2 J.B.) and to "hope for great things from Him is to glorify Him." (St. John of the Cross)

31. To be a true Victim of Love, is it necessary to recite frequently the Act of Oblation composed by St. Therese of the Child Jesus?

No. St. Therese assures us that "prayer is an outburst from the heart; a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven;" she also says in the formula itself of the Act: "I want, O My Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times," which does not suppose the recitation of any words. The full donation of the Victim of Love is, therefore, above all a "disposition of the heart." This does not depend on a more of less frequent use of any set form of prayer. Nevertheless, the Church invites the faithful not only to realize this Act of Oblation, but also to assimilate the thoughts and even the words of St. Therese.

Quotations from St. Therese's autobiography are reproduced with permission from Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright 1975 by the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications.


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