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Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St.…
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Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third…

by Therese de Lisieux

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I read this book for Lent. She truly was a woman devoted on matters not of this Earth who was determined to make others understand what it was like to live your life with this radical focus on God as understood as the source of all love. For me this comes across most clearly not so much in the autobiographical portion but in the descriptions by those who knew her which follow: the epilogue describing her final months, anecdotes describing her sayings, also in her letters and other collected writings. It all has the sense of something coming from an era almost unimaginably far away from our time, and yet I feel the kernel of her message and the charisma she displayed by embodying it are things that can still find resonance in a receptive heart. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
Didn't read the whole thing yet -- a priority this summer. ( )
  LudieGrace | Dec 4, 2013 |
Like many of the autobiographies of great Catholic saints, Therese never intended the short manuscripts she wrote for her sisters in Carmel to be collected and published. Consequently, she writes in an entirely unpolished style, with none of the artifice or poetry of her predecessor John of the Cross. Instead, like her spiritual mother (and namesake) Teresa of Avila, she was an intelligent but less-educated woman whose personality shines through in her writing. I read this work - the work which made Therese into a saint and Doctor of the Church - in honor of her October 1 feat day.

Therese's life story is short: she is born into a large, middle-class French family, her mom dies when she is a small girl, she and her remaining sisters (five girls total, no boys) move to the small country town of Lisieux. She was a shy girl who experienced bouts of loneliness and emotional turbulence as a result of the grief caused by her mom's death. She had few friends at school, and almost all of her socialization came from time spent with siblings. So we can imagine her sorrow when Marie and Pauline join the Carmelites, a cloistered order, effectively ending their ability to spend time together.

Therese, following a call she felt since two, attempted to join the convent at 14, and was told she was not old enough by the superior and the bishop. Even visiting the pope himself did not further her cause. Eventually the bishop gave in, and at 16 she became a nun. Eventually her younger sister would follow, and the fifth girl would also be a nun. (Her father's loneliness at losing both his wife and five daughters made him mentally ill and unable to take care of himself.) A very precocious girl, it seemed Therese did everything early, so sadly and fittingly she died at 25 after a painful bout with tuberculosis.

The main thing that struck me about Therese was the flowery emotionalism with which she described her relationship with God. At times this bordered on the sickeningly coy, while at other times it was refreshing to have a candid love and devotion to God. Therese grew up in the milieu of Jansenism, a form of piety popular in France that emphasized man's depravity and the need for rigorous penance. This doctrine was responsible for much of the turmoil of Therese's cloistered life. She became scrupulous, needing to confess everything and constantly focusing on her sins. Her emphasis on God's mercy and love is a credit to the openness she had to the true nature of God's grace. If it seems exaggerated that is only because of what it responds to.

Therese's "little way" has attracted millions. The "little way" is, in part, understanding as Therese did - "My vocation is LOVE" - that we need not be great apostles or missionaries or bishops to have a Godly vocation. While reflecting on scripture in the final years of her life, Therese felt despondent at not having a great calling to do any of these things. What could she, a meek little woman, cloistered in a convent, do for the glory of the Church? She came to realize that behind all these great do-ers is the vocation to love. Anyone can do this. And while Therese felt toward the end of her life that her true vocation would be through her posthumously published life story, she would smile at the irony of just how true that became.

Most of us are like Therese: little, living our Christian lives in small ways unnoticed by the world. In this way we imitate Jesus, who in his time was largely unnoticed (how many non-Christian historical sources from the first century mention Jesus?). A great book about a woman finding herself and her vocation in Christ, definitely worth reading for non-Catholics too. ( )
2 vote JDHomrighausen | Oct 29, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lisieux, Therese deprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clarke, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Francois de Sainte-MariePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, Thomas NimmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Father John Clarke's acclaimed translation, first published in 1975 and now accepted as the standard throughout the English-speaking world, is a faithful and unaffected rendering of Thérèse's own words, from the original manuscripts. This new edition, prepared for the centenary of the Saint's death, includes a select bibliography of recent works in English on Thérèse, along with a new referencing system now widely used in studies of her doctrine.
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