07 - Religious Life According to Mother Thérèse

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I broke off my letter yesterday in order to go to a conference of Father Jules Payan who spoke extremely well on the excellence of religious life, and the esteem we should have of it. It is always good to hear this subject spoken of at length.[1]

The Beauty of the Religious Vocation

On the day I took my habit, [she said to me]: “I think you will not regret what you have left”. [2]

On October 15, 1880, she said to a young aspirant, “I was asked what enjoyment I could find to spend my life between four walls? So great that all eternity does not seem too long to thank God for it. I often say to Him: My God, I do not know enough to thank You, but if You will put me in Your Paradise, I will thank you for all eternity.[3]

When she was reading to the Sisters, or keeping us at recreation, she would tell us: 'my good Sisters, esteem your vocation very much. It is very beautiful. God has given you a large part by calling you to his service. So, you must serve with a heart that is clear and forgetful of yourselves.”[4]

Our Father Rigaud comes to give us an instruction each week on the excellence of our holy vocation, I regret very much, my good sister, that you and all our sisters are not there; I assure you that he makes us appreciate very much the blessing of religious life and the glorious title of being able to call ourselves the spouses of Jesus.[5]

We had read the life of St Elizabeth of Hungary; Mother Thérèse, with her hands clasped, with such a smile and a gracious air, said: «This saint loved her husband, but I love mine even more».[6]

Religious Life: A Source of Grace

Had He given me no other grace than to call me to religious life and make me taste its sweetness would this not be enough, since religious life is in itself an uninterrupted chain of graces, which lead us quickly to perfection if we are faithful to them.[7]

In a few days we shall have the triduum for the renovation of vows, new graces from which we must derive profit. Graces! - they are showered upon religious souls, and when we think of it seriously, we see ourselves so miserable and afraid that we are obliged to say to ourselves: "God is good! Yes, He is more than good, He is Goodness. I must not forget it.[8]

Courage therefore, very dear Sister, religious life is so great a grace that it is worth purchasing at the price of a few sacrifices, however costly to poor nature.[9]

should we on this account cease to thank the good God? Are not religious more bound to do so than others, since they have received so many graces and so many favours from God? Their life should be one continuous act of thanksgiving.[10]

The Joy of Religious Life

One likes to unite oneself to these family feasts even from afar; knowing the joy of religious life, one truly rejoices to see that there are other souls who have also realized that God is All, and that all else is nothing.[11]

Your letter was a pleasant surprise for I did not know that I had a nephew who was a Marist Brother, I have thanked the good God for this, and should be glad if I learned that all your brothers had chosen the same lot, for when one has tasted the happiness of religious life, one would like to share it with all those who are dear to us; but it is not given to all to understand that it is the better part; thank the good God that it has fallen to your share, and pray for those whom you have left in the world, so that if God should give them the thought of leaving it, they may have the courage to do so. Nevertheless one must be called to this holy vocation; happy are those to whom God grants this great grace which is the source of an infinity of others attached to it. Let us strive to be very faithful to it; for when one belongs to the good God it is not fitting to belong to Him by halves; one must surrender oneself with great generosity if we desire that the good God should let us taste the sweetness attached to His service.[12]

Religious vocations proceed from God; to oppose them, is often an opposition to His Will. Is He not the Master? He may call whom He pleases, and how He pleases. I therefore hope that your parents will be willing to give up their affections, if the good God requires it. There are so many fathers and mothers in the world, who weep and lament over the bad conduct of their children, and they indeed are to be pitied; those who have pious children who would like to belong wholly to God, should rejoice and thank the good God instead of being afflicted; this should be a happiness for a family.[13]

The Definition of a Good Religious According to Mother Thérèse

It is time, then, to strive to become good religious, the hour has come.[14]

we have so many things to ask of the good God for ourselves and for others, for the present and for the future, that we should like to be able to make of prayer a habitual occupation, as it should indeed be the element of the religious.[15]

This should be the occupation of a good religious - to think of our Lord - to study Him - to speak to Him - and to keep oneself united to Him in labour as in repose - in grief as well as in joy. He will teach us to draw profit from all the situations of life and enable us to obtain merit through everything that may happen to us, whether it be agreeable or distressing. Divine Wisdom rules everything, orders everything - this should suffice to induce us to bless it for all things.[16]

Our dear retreat closed this morning: to my mind, it was good, very good, strong and energetic. Perfection was held up to us in a supreme degree and in all the conferences, no matter what was the subject, it was always the same conclusion: that a religious should belong wholly to God, without division, without restriction, without any reserve, and for this there is devotedness, sacrifice, renunciation, death to nature, to the senses, and to all the satisfactions of self-love, in a word death to all that is not God; moreover, those who believe that they are able to build the edifice of their perfection and of their sanctity on other foundations than this stripping of all self-love would be under an illusion and would never arrive at perfection. I do not know what others thought about this doctrine, but it suited me perfectly. I did not miss a single word of it and I confess that I was delighted to hear it, because it was my way of thinking also, so that I often met there the expression of my own sentiments and my own disposition. I rejoiced at it also for others, because I thought that souls would be enlightened by it.[17]

A Trick of Mother Thérèse in order to Persevere

The Holy Mother told me that my name was Thérèse like her, that I seemed very young to her and that she wanted to help me to serve Our Lord well. She added that the first of graces and that we thought very rarely to ask was perseverance in vocation… then smiling, I am very old, but I pray for it every day. / Another time she called me again and said to me: A grace which one does not think either to ask and which is nevertheless the foundation of all religious virtues, is a great faith; one must pray a lot to obtain a great faith. Pray all your life for great faith[18].

[1] To Our Mother de Larochenegly in Paris, Lyon, 7 August 1867.

[2] Sr. Elisabeth Pacriaud, June 24, 1911 (written memories)

[3] Written testimony of one Sister

[4] Sr Agarithe, 1887 (written memories).

[5] To Sister Agnès to Plagnal, from La Louvesc, January 14, 1836.

[6] Sr Madeleine Rüffinier, trial of Malines, 1920.

[7] To Our Mother de Larochenégly to Nancy, from Montpellier, April 23, 1866 [1865].

[8] To Mother de Larochenégly, to Lyon, from Montpellier, June 5, 1865.

[9] To Madame Stéphanie du Plessis, to Versailles, from Lyon, May 18, 1880.

[10] To Sister Marguerite Hérique to Tours, from Lyon, November 27, 1868.

[11]To Our Mother Marie Aimée Lautier to Versailles, from Lyon, October 1867.

[12] To her nephew Adrien Rouvier, from Montpelier, January 9, 1863.

[13] À son neveu Alphonse Couderc, de Lyon, 14 janvier 1874 (à propos de la vocation de trappiste de son frère Léon).

[14] Letter to her daughters announcing the nomination of Mme de L., October 26, 1838.

[15] To Our Mother Marie Aimé Lautier, to Versailles, from Lyon, October 21, 1869.

[16] To Mother Mathilde Davin to Tours, from Lyon, February13, 1870.

[17] Our Mother de Larochenégly, to Paris, from Lyon, December 23, 1868.

[18] Mother Thérèse de Vaines, written memories sent from Brighton, July 16, 1911.