Thursday, October 1, 2015
In June of 1895, two years before her death, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face made an "Act of Oblation to Merciful Love." She expressed her gratitude to God for the grace of suffering: "Since you deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion." (The Story of a Soul, trans. by Fr. John Clarke, OCD, p.277)
In the mental and physical sufferings that St. Thérèse experienced in the weeks preceding her early demise, she came to resemble her Crucified Spouse very much. As the tuberculosis consumed her body, a trial of faith and hope, in which heaven and eternity seemed closed to her, tortured her soul. The coughing of blood and persistent sore throat led to a treatment of painful cauterization with silver nitrate. Eventually, "gangrene ate away her intestines and she lost blood two or three times a day. Drinking only intensified her burning thirst. She had a terrible feeling of suffocation which could not be eliminated by the administration of ether. Finally, her bones protruded through her flesh to such an extent that, when she was made to sit upright to get some relief, it seemed to her that she was seated on iron spikes." (Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Rev. Francois Jamart, pp. 187-188) She confided to her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, that her pain was so intense that at times she was tempted to commit suicide: "What a grace it is to have faith! If I had no faith I would have inflicted death on myself without hesitating a moment!" (The Story of a Soul, p. 264)
On the afternoon of September 30, 1897, she entered into her agony. "Everything I have written about my desires for suffering," she gasped. "Oh, it is true just the same. I am not sorry for having surrendered myself to love. Oh, I am not sorry, on the contrary!" (The Story of a Life by Bishop Guy Gaucher, p. 204)
Nevertheless, Mother Agnes was so distressed by her sister's ordeal that she knelt before a statue of the Sacred Heart and begged for the grace of final perseverance for her little Thérèse. When the other nuns of the Carmel were summoned to the infirmary to support their sister with prayers in her dying moments, they saw her purplish hands holding her profession crucifix. Shortly after seven o'clock in the evening, the saint looked at the crucifix and breathed forth her last words: "My God, I love You!" After gazing a few moments with an expression of ecstatic joy at the statue of Our Lady, the beloved "Virgin of the Smile," brought from her childhood home, she died peacefully, her own face transfigured and smiling. On October 4, she was buried in the cemetery of the town of Lisieux. Only a few relatives and friends were present at the burial of the twenty-four year old nun. No one guessed that a storm of glory, a shower of miracles, was about to break forth.