Sunday, June 27, 2010

a carmelite confession...

... I have lost count how many times I've set out to read Story of a Soul. I just can not make it past the sugary language and flowery prose. It's a shame really; I know there is some amazingly profound spiritual insight to be had within those pages... two chapters in and I'm in a diabetic coma.

I guess I will have to wait for the publication of an insulin injected edition.

28 comments:

Dan said...

I confess that my "Interior Castle" is more like a mobile home. With plastic lawn statuary in the front yard.

Just another mad Catholic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just another mad Catholic said...

I love the Carmelites !!, my advice would to be to pray to the Little Flower that God would grant you the grace to understand what she is trying to tell you

G said...

I read it earlier this year and loved it. I can see how it is a little syrupy but that temperament is also what is so much a part of her spirituality and "Little Way".

Angela M. said...

I had this book for years and like you could not get past chapter 2. This Lent I was preparing to read Ralph Martin's "Fulfillment of All Desire" and Laura Lowder suggested I read Story of a Soul to prepare for it. I reluctantly agreed. Except this time I tore through Story of A Soul! I devoured the pages, marked passages I loved, and I now consider St. Therese not only one of my patrons but a spiritual sister. I have no idea what changed but like the above poster said - pray that the Little Flower will grant you the grace to read this book.

One thing that did help me read SoaS was realizing that St. Therese never meant for anyone but her sisters to read her writings. She wrote in a way that was familiar and appropriate for this intimate relationship.

Happy Reading!

Angela M. said...

Kat, I know this might sound odd but in many ways you and St. Therese share quite a number of personality traits.

Terry Nelson said...

I know! I know! Read "St Therese By Those Who Knew Her" It is the testimony of the witnesses for her canonization - it tells her story very well.

Otherwise - don't try to read it until Therese herself nudges you to do so when you are best prepared.

Old Bob said...

Hi, all. It also took me a long while and a few readings to like Thérèse and her book. I think I see mkore in it now than I did years ago because I'm 66 now, and have more to bring to the book. There is a movie about her made by St. Luke Productions, and I give it high ratings.

Suz said...

Much as I love her, I've never been able to finish Story of a Soul either....

Mum2eight said...

I did the same thing as Angela. Couldn't read it and then one weekend when I wanted something spiritual to read and there was nothing there, sat down and read it from beginning to end. I couldn't believe that I had found it hard to read before.

Pennycake said...

"If Benedict's biography gives the sophisticated soul miracles to stumble over, Thérèse's story gives tasteful grown-ups an even bigger obstacle. To find Thérèse, the modern soul has to climb over the stumbling block of her style. We modern-day pilgrims are presented with a nineteenth-century teenage nun with a pretty smile and schoolgirl enthusiasms. She speaks in language that seems archaic and sickly sweet. Among other sentimental touches she calls herself a little flower of Jesus and a little ball for the child Jesus to play with. She thinks God is her "Papa" and likens herself to a bowl of milk that kittens come to drink from. It's easy to turn away such greeting-card spirituality in distaste, but this is precisely the first test. Thérèse swamps tasteful people with sentimentality and sweetness, and only when they survive the taste test can they begin to appreciate her wisdom. She is one of the best examples of the secret Catholic truth that says the tasteful cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."
-Dwight Longenecker, St. Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way, pp. 46-47
...
"one additional tip for the hopelessly stymied--for whatever reason, all of this that is so off-putting in English, is greatly subdued if you read it in French--this discipline is finally what allowed me to enter the door and sit for a while at this great teacher's feet. Praise God!"
http://floscarmeli.stblogs.org/archives/2003/09/on-miracles-and.html

'If the first-time reader has to struggle with the mundane minutiae of sixth-century monastic life in Benedict, then in Thérèse he has to struggle with an even more difficult dose of "ordinariness."'
http://floscarmeli.stblogs.org/archives/2003/09/more-on-st-thrs.html

Rick said...

I understand. I read the other St. Therese's Interior Castle to blog about the 7 chambers and had to resort to cutting and pasting from Wiki when it got to the 6th chamber.

http://divine-ripples.blogspot.com/2010/06/loitering-in-restrooms-of-interior.html

Owen said...

I read Therese & Maurice: A Story of Love and that was the first time I was able to absorb her teaching and understand why she is a Doctor of the Church. But, I still can't get past chp 3 of Story of a Soul nor, I should add, can my dear wife or can our fellow convert - and most devout Catholic - eldest daughter.

By the comments above you hardly seem alone

ocd sister said...

If it makes you feel any better, I know of a former Carmelite who in her 3rd year as temporary professed had not read Story of a Soul yet.

Please know that there are many versions out there and some of are seriously flawed. Perhaps your difficulty is due to the edition you're using?

Blessings!

Cecilia said...

Maybe don't start at the beginning? There's no reason to read it chronologically. I'd suggest you just skip to Manuscript B (ch. 9), or even Manuscript C, when she's dying.

Therese Z said...

I'm another "skipper." I couldn't get through it, and had tried over and over (she's my patroness, I HAD to read it!)

Then I started with chapter 2, went through to the end and went back and read the "childhood chapter" later.

Then you could hear the adult woman talking.

elena maria vidal said...

I would also recommend THE STORY OF A LIFE by Bishop Guy Gaucher. It was the book that really made me understand how underneath the exterior sweetness of Therese was Joan of Arc.

Denita said...

I have a difficult time reading this book, too.

Patm said...

Read the letters of Elizabeth of the Trinity. Nothing sugary about her. She's great.

Lee Strong said...

I suffer from the same malady when it comes to the Little Flower. And the movie about her by Leonardo Defilippis - whose St. Francis I liked - gave me a sugar rush.

Her spirituality may do wonders for many people, but it's not to my taste.

I'll probably burn in Hell.

Owen said...

@Lee, hope it's not hell but more likely just an extended time in purgatory though the good Doctor of the Church herself would quickly point out otherwise. She was much more of the you should fully expect heaven not purgatory - which is interesting as it puts her with odds, as a DocOtheChurch, with other notable saints who seemed to say just opposite, i.e.most of us sods should expect to land in the big burnin' hunk-o temporal fire.

Marie said...

Reading her mother's biography helped me a lot. I felt such love for Zelie Martin, that I was able to appreciate her daughter more. It also helped to give some understanding of their family life, which helped to give THE STORY OF A SOUL some much needed context.

nazareth priest said...

"Story of a Soul", in the translation for her centenary of her birth in 1973 by the Carmelites is the best edition, I believe.
I read it over and over.
St. Therese has been a sister to me all these years; I thank God for the unedited edition of which I mentioned.
And as Terry mentioned, "St. Therese by Those Who Knew Her", is a great help.
She's strong as iron and simple as a dove.
She was much ahead of her times (her own sister edited the original "Story of Soul" so that no one would be "scandalized"). I dare say, today, no one would be scandalized by her original work...she suffered the "cross" of temptations of atheism on her deathbed; she offered her last Holy Communion for an apostate Carmelite priest who had left the Church, married, and started his own "church"...she is no wilting violet; she's one of us...I'm convinced!

Just another mad Catholic said...

As much as I like the Little Flower I must confess that it was the 'other' St Teresa (whose doesn't have a very good PR agency) who made me fall in Love with the Carmalites; now if only I could find a decent OCD community (1st Order) on my side of the pond - all the good American ones want you to be a US Citizen before you even start the Postulency - hiss, spit, growl.

The Little Way said...

I respect your opinion and your honesty, but I disagree that the language is sugary or flowery. Therese was completely possessed by God and that is precisely how she writes. I'm not one for chick flicks or most of those things that are supposed to appeal to women, so I must say that SOAS never struck me as being overly sentimental or syrupy or I probably would not have been able to read it. I would like to suggest a novena booklet available from Tan Books called "Joy in Suffering" which is a 9-day novena to St. Therese. Not only is it an enormously powerful novena, but it will also offer you insight into her prayer life and spirituality without the kind of language you found difficult to plow through. Also from Tan Books is "Thoughts and Sayings of St. Therese", with many recounted conversations she had with her novices. There is a reason beyond sacharine sentiment that St. Therese has the following that she does, and I would hate for anyone to be deprived of knowing her better because of one book, which, as has been pointed out, she never intended to be published. Thank God for us that it was.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Not everybody gets nutrition from the same stuff, or at the same time. Perfectly normal.

It's really not so much sugary, as the product of being a person of strong and volatile emotion. I'm sorta overemotional myself, so I get a lot out of it. It's one of the few books that really gets into the ups and downs of being a person of strong, sudden ups and downs. (And eventually, about how to harness and then conquer those tendencies.)

You probably don't want to know how much I got into the book, when I was reading it for my free audiobook podcast. Tears! Laughter! Drama!

You would probably be a lot happier with St. Francis de Sales. He's the normal, stable, undramatic, deeply sensible proponent of the spiritual life, but still has a good sense of humor. :)

G said...

Late to this thread but I had to tell you the good news that "Story" (& Faustina & Louis de M. & Ignatius' Spiritual Ex) have been chopped down to bite sized pieces suitable to the modern palette by Fr Mike Gaitley, MIC. Earlier this yr, he published "Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A do-it-yourself retreat" by Marian Press. Do yourself a favor & invest 15 bucks in this book. Its a big help.

Caspar Ignatius said...

You ought to check out Brother Michael Gaitley's "Consoling the Heart of Jesus"--captures the heart of Therese's work and integrates it with a bunch of other gloriousness.