Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A New Flowering of the Little Flower - St. Therese of Lisieux for the 21st Century

Only the last signs of our anniversary celebration remain to remind us of our beautiful liturgy, rejoicing with so many friends and voicing our profound gratitude for fifty years of Redemptoristine presence here in the Hudson River Valley. The lovely white snapdragons and lilies combined with yellow carnations continue to grace our chapel along with a bouquet of white roses beneath the icon of Mother of Perpetual Help, just perfect for today's feast of "la morenita", the little brown one of Guadalupe.

We also rejoice in the return of Sr. Margaret Banville, our Peg, to our monastery after a stay in the hospital. She is weak but was so very delighted to be with us at table for both dinner and supper. We are blessed.

Today Mark in Md. left a comment on a post about St. Therese of Lisieux back on Oct. 1, 2007. He too is reading Schmidt's wonderful book on Therese Everything is Grace. Mark makes another recommendation for good reading that closes the gap he recognizes between what the saint herself wrote and a great deal of what has been written about her. Mark's comment made me think of a couple of other good sources on the topic.

The first is a 1990 issue of Carmelite Studies entitled Experiencing St. Therese Today. It is a collection of essays about Therese by a number of her admirers who are also scholars. The most outstanding essay i to my mind was contributed by Ann Belford Ulanov, a Jungian psychoanalyst who has written widely on the necessary connect between psychology and spirituality. The title of her essay is Religious Devotion or masochism? - A Psychoanalyst Looks at Therese. Ulanov tells us Therese was not a masochist but is accused of being one "because she she threatens with the intensity, power, force and mystery of her loving, makes us conscious of our capacity for that loving which she says is available to all. She makes us conscious of our resistance.

The second item is an article which I read in a privately printed version so I do not know whether it is currently available to the general public. It was written by John J. Giugliano who was and may sill be he Director of Mental Health at Covenant House in New York City and was Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University, Bronx, NY. The title of his piece is long but revealing: Separation, Loss, and Longing in the Infancy and Early Childhood of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face - Attachment in Psychological and Spiritual Development. The author focusing on the psychological suffering experienced by Therese even prior to the death of her mother when she was four and a half years old. By her own account it is known that she was placed with a wet nurse at the of two moths and remained with that primary care-giver until the age of fifteen-months. As a mother just that information alone broadened my appreciation of her experience and her spirituality.

These explorations into the personality and spirituality of Therese reveal the strength that lies behind her enduring message not just for contemplative nuns but for all those who yearn to follow her "little way of love."

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