Maurice and Therese

Maurice and Therese

As Saint Thérèse lay dying in the Carmel of Lisieux, she overheard a conversation that amused her. Outside her window, two nuns were discussing what they could write in her obituary that could possibly be of any interest, since the twenty-four-year-old nun had never done anything worth noting. Thérèse was pleased, for she had always kept a low profile. With the posthumous publication of her spiritual autobiography in 1898, however, that low profile would vanish instantly. She became one of the most beloved saints of all time, and her influence will expand dramatically because of Pope John Paul II’s declaration that she is a Doctor of the Church. Amid growing interest in her writings comes the collected correspondence between herself and a humble young seminarian, Maurice Bellière. Though they never met in person, they exchanged twenty-one letters that open a window on the heart of Saint Thérèse that would have remained forever closed had Maurice not written to the Mother Superior at the convent asking for a nun to pray for him. The Mother Superior chose Thérèse, and in these conversational letters the Little Flower reveals herself in a way that we would never have known from her autobiography. In his accompanying text, Bishop Patrick Ahern expertly leads the reader into the worlds of Maurice and Thérèse and reveals the full beauty of this saint’s spirituality.St. Therese of Lisieux, who died unknown in a Carmelite convent at the age of 24, became one of the most influential women in the world after her autobiography (The Story of a Soul) was posthumously published in 1898. Mother Teresa of Calcutta took her name from Therese; Edith Piaf kept Therese’s picture on her night table; in 1997, Pope John Paul II made her a Doctor of the Church– only the third woman to receive this distinction. Her autobiography describes a spiritual life full of everyday revelations–she saw God in jam sandwiches, pretty hats, and beautiful flowers. Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love shows how her commonplace spirituality ministered to an aimless young priest unsure of his vocation and unstable in his devotion. Maurice Belliere wrote to Therese’s Mother Prioress to ask that a nun pray for him, Therese was assigned to the task, and their 21 letters (edited and with commentary by Patrick Traherne) illustrate the young woman’s extraordinary ability to love. She wasn’t deeply familiar with Maurice, and she didn’t agree with him on lots of things, but she was naturally inclined to have faith in him–a necessary aspect of love, and one that deserves attention. –Michael Joseph Gross

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