A couple of years ago, I providentially happened to read two books that have deeply influenced my spiritual life ever since. They were – Story of a Soul (St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobigraphy) and Divine Mercy in my Soul (Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska).
For those who aren’t acquainted with these saints, St. Thérèse happens to be the young Carmelite, Doctor of the Church, who is popularly known as ‘St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus‘ or the ‘Little Flower‘.
St. Faustina on the other hand is the Polish mystic to whom Jesus entrusted the task of spreading the devotion to the Divine Mercy and making it more widely known. So yes, the image we see of Jesus with two rays radiating from His heart and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy all stem from Jesus’ dialogues with the Polish saint.
I’d like to share some personal reflections on the writings of these two young saints. Their spiritual doctrine is so rich that every time I read and re-read their work I am even more deeply impressed! But as I write this article, two words seem to encompass much of their spiritual legacy.
The words are MERCY and TRUST.
In a way, reading the diary of St. Faustina is like deeply gazing and contemplating on the reality of the Merciful Heart of Jesus.
It is with words such as the following that her writings have helped unveil to me the incomprehensible depths of God’s greatest attribute – His mercy:
I perform works of mercy in every soul. The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.i (Words of Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary 723)
I desire trust from My creatures. Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the immeasurable depths of My mercy. (Words of Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary 1059)
Continuing with the previous quote, what I soon learnt was that if God is waiting to pour out His merciful love, then we need to respond by a life of trust. Trust is like a vessel in which the waters of Christ’s mercy can be poured into. With this in mind, the more we trust in God, the more He can work in our lives.
In fact, the Diary reveals to us that Jesus is most deeply hurt by a soul’s distrust. (Diary 1076)
Now coming to St. Thérèse, I look to her as a model of trust and confidence in God. As I read the Story of a Soul I was inspired by her life. Her love for God was contagious. The close and unique relationship she had with God and the way she went about things in trustful surrender began to heal my areas of distrust and wrong images and perceptions of God .
A few of her words:
“It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I lift up my heart to God in trust and love. I feel that even had I on my conscience every crime one could commit, I should lose nothing of my confidence: my heart broken with sorrow, I would throw myself into the arms of my Saviour…No one could frighten me, for I know what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. And I know that all that multitude of sins would disappear in an instant, even as a drop of water cast into a flaming furnace.”
“Dearest Mother, if weak and imperfect souls like mine felt what I feel, none would despair of reaching the summit of the Mountain of Love, since Jesus does not ask for great deeds, but only for gratitude and self-surrender.” ii
I have learnt that there is great freedom in living life in this mercy-trust dynamic.
I’ve also learnt that it’s not very easy. At times one would wish to be perfect, without the grime of failings and imperfections. But instead of getting discouraged at our efforts, these saints encourage us to look beyond ourselves to the mercy of God.
To remember God’s unfathomable mercy always and to trust in His Goodness unceasingly, are things that are easy to read but not always easy to practice.
But amazingly, one reason why treading this path of trust and surrender might cause us “internal friction” is because in the process it might be prying open and healing our wounded human nature – bent as it is by original sin:
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. (CCC 397, Emphasis added)
Sts. Thérèse and Faustina,
Pray for us.