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A Lenten Journey with St.Therese

Fr. John Russell, O.Carm.


The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save ir. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?' LUKE 9: 22-25


On New Year's day, 1888, Jesus again gave me a present of his cross, but this time I was alone in carrying it. It was all the more painful as I did not understand it. A letter from Mother Marie de Gonzague informed me that the Bishop's answer had arrived December 28, feast of the Holy Innocents, but that she bad not told me as it was decided that my entrance would be delayed until after Lent. I was unable to hold back my tears at the thought of such a long wait I really want to believe I must have appeared unreasonable in not accepting my three months exile joyfielly, but I also believe that, without its appearing so, this trial was very great and made me grow very much in abandonment and in the other virtue? (Story of a Soul, 143).


The cross enters everyone's life and we notice in today's Gospel reading that the cross is a daily event. For St. Therese the cross was experienced in the delay she had to endure before her entrance into the Carmel of Lisieux. She would encounter more crosses in her brief life, e.g., physical illness and temptations regarding the existence of heaven.

People meet the cross in disappointments with children, in job loss and financial crises. Also the cross comes in the form of a migraine headache, in risky surgery, in stress, in long waiting lines, in dryness in prayer, in rejection in relationships. The cross may be brief and transitory or permanent. It may be simply an annoy¬ance or a dark period in one's life which threatens ones overall mental health. In the Christian tradition we walk in the footsteps of Christ, who can take our suffering and turn it into a saving grace for others. We may find that our desire to unite with Christ and his suffering provides us with the ballast of peace and hope. For St. Therese suffering provided the joy of knowing Christ Jesus in profound love.


Gracious and loving God, your presence among us invites courage and fidelity in adversity. Suffering can cause feelings of anger and pain as well as a heart that may question your goodness. Take our lives and transform our hearts to cruse in your love and your presence within us. Like St. Therese may we obtain the grace of abandonment to your providential love. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."