In unfamiliar vocational territory; please advise

Whyever I'm casting this out into a community of complete strangers, I don't know. But I have a feeling I might get a good response tonight.

Let me begin by saying that this has been the luckiest year of my life yet, considering that my last decade was very frustrating personally, occupationally, financially, and relationally. Suddenly, though, at the beginning of this year, I receive a great job offer doing what I love, and then the promise of a raise, additional responsibilities, and additional time. No more of those horrid cube farms! I'm accepted to finish my degrees at the university of my choice as well, but upon my statement of inability to pay, am offered the opportunity to work for a year as a correspondence student, keeping my foot in the door, and making transfer to a day program and receipt of lucrative institutionally based financial aid all the easier for me. And I don't have to take on the expenses of moving and can keep my job. A writer who has long had little to write about, I'm producing my most beautiful work in at least five years. And a long lost friend comes back into my life, and it looks like a splendid romance is developing.

For about ten years--which I noted earlier to have been unfortunate years--I was casting my lot on a call to the priestly and/or religious life, only to have every door shut in my face. This was not due to heterodoxy or incapacity or anything like that; I was just told that I'm not quite the aspirant the Church is looking for right now. It frustrated me so for a long time, as I saw little quarter for me in the secular world, and saw the need for the good servants of Christ, the Church, and the Pope so compellingly. However, bitter experience shows me now that it is not my lot. However, my despair was short-lived, as I am told that I am an excellent educator, and have come to love my work teaching English.

But my alienation from the Church became progressively greater, to the point that I eschewed the sacraments. An unwise move I know, but I see now that purgatory cannot be much worse than even the most sacrilegious of Masses. In case you haven't guessed, I'm of the more traditional temperament and churchmanship. Anyway, by the grace of God, in spite of my own mortal sin, a rich life of interior prayer, both contemplative and formal (like the Rosary) developed in me, and my guardian angel finally prompted me to go to shrift and to receive the sacrament once more--this after five novenas said for a special intention, as well as friends putting it on the prayer line to a nearby community of especially saintly nuns. My past experience had taught me to expect a rather disinterested priest and a very light penance, but a rather onerous penance was imposed upon me in this case. I had prayed for saintlier clergy, and I therefore got saintlier clergy, and this penance is actually proving a great benefit to me. I imagine that God has so graced me already while in a state of mortal sin, what wonders could transpire while in a state of grace?

Anyway, I'd not be surprised if I were to find out that this confessor had the gift of reading hearts. He advised me that I should consider an option that really hadn't much crossed my radar screen in the past--marriage. The doors to a clerical or consecrated life being shut, my focus had been largely upon what one might call a secondary vocation--being an excellent writer and teacher. All in all, bachelorhood hasn't been bad to me, as celibacy is enjoined upon those considering the other vocations, and I have thus been (generally) celibate.

Interestingly, I reunite with my old friend, and it turns somewhat romantic before this transpires. Also interestingly, a romance between us was the request I made with my novenas--"to culminate in a happy marriage if it be the will of God," as I put it. It's been progressing slowly, and I've missed a few opportunities to sweep her off her feet, but I still remain very confident.

It feels very odd for me to make this among my primary prayer intentions, as but a few years before I'd have considered it quite frivolous. In a sense, I still somewhat do. Let me ask, is it?

Next, marriage requires stability. It needs a home, and a wife needs her husband home at night. But I cannot now provide that home, and in order to do so, I must travel off for another degree so as to get a higher income. Even if that college debt is not so much a problem as I think it is, this would make for a rather rocky start to a marriage. We're not getting any younger, moreover. And I've not even brought the natural purpose of marriage--children--into the picture yet. With all of this in play, is marriage even advisable now?

And is there anything else you'd like to say about this? It's hard to say exactly what my end question is. Just, I guess, what do you think of all of this?

Please keep me in your prayers.

Hi there!

I don't think your prayer intention of having your romantic interest "culminate in a happy marriage if it be the will of God" is frivolous at all. God knows and understands that we want to be happy, and as long as we are honest with ourselves as to the motives behind out intentions and that they are sincere in a desire to fulfill His purpose for our lives, God listens and draws us and our intentions close to Him. At least, that's what I think. :)

I'm not sure about the assumption made in your second question, to wit, a wife needing her husband home at night. Perhaps a more experienced and knowledgeable forum member will come along and shed some light on this for you. Personally (and this is just my own opinion), I think God understands that every married couple's circumstances are unique. Have you thought of speaking to a spiritual director about your concerns? He or she might be able to help you sort out all your questions and concerns.

Hang in there. I'll be praying for you. :)

Thank you. And Edith Stein does rock!

I think I might see where the problem is, though. All along, I've been very utilitarian with my vocational discernment, thinking more about which function I'd best serve. Maybe that's fine when one is discerning a secular profession, but not a spiritual vocation. As I noted, I spent ten rather leaden years. I was rather severe with myself. The way of Christ is the Way of the Cross; it's not about happiness, or so I'd say.

Now you say, "God knows and understands that we want to be happy." And I finally agree. It's been a very pleasant year after many unpleasant ones. And today's pleasure is as much grace as yesterday's hardship.

So, in all of this, regardless of situation, is it untoward to pray that we might be happy in life? Even in this life as well as the next? Is this something that should play a role in our vocational discernment?

It sounds like our stories have a lot in common, although I'm now happily married, with one child and another on the way. So is there hope of a happy ending? If you have now reached the point where you can once again live in the sacraments, then (subject to the temporal punishments amassed during the period of sinfulness), you are through the worst of it, I think.

A lot of the pain of not being in holy orders goes away. I certainly feel 100% part of the Church now, I pray for vocations again, try to help people with their faith, or encourage them to find it, am happy for others when their vocations are confirmed by the Church. There was a time when every one of those things was not true for me; such problems are definitively gone now.

On the other hand, some twinges remain. If just a few key things had gone differently, I'll tell myself, I'd be a monk right now, and I still fantasise about it frequently, even to the point of drawing up plans for what I might do if I lost my family! Then I just have to look at my wife or my son and I realise that God in his mercy must be tempted to roll his eyes seeing someone as blind as me, managing not to see the elephant-sized blessings in the room which he has given me.

Regarding happiness, I think that Augustine's "our soul is restless until it rests in you" is the key: we do all need to bear our crosses, we will ultimately all face suffering and death, but the only true happiness comes from dwelling in the Lord, and he in us. And that means being open to him, being able to listen to him in our lives, and go where he tells us we must go. If we do, we will not bear our crosses alone, suffer alone, or die alone.

Listen to God. Open yourself up to him, and don't be afraid of him telling you something that isn't what you want to hear. Rosaries and novenas are good, but Teresian mental prayer or Ignatian exercises might be more necessary in your situation.

[As completely non-spiritual advice, I would be careful about getting another degree as a way to forward your career--there are plenty of ways to change careers or get promotions that don't require taking on so much debt. (As proof, consider how the correlation between people's degrees and their careers is usually vague at best.) Although I'm saying this as I finish my second master's, which probably totally undermines what I'm saying!]

TuAutem, thank you. I am with you on this. Those suggestions about Ignatian or Carmelite spirituality--those that will open our emotions in particular--are right on the money, especially as I really wish to connect emotionally to this fascinating woman I'm courting. As I said, I missed a good opportunity to sweep her off her feet, because I was off in the cold ethers of thought, rather than present in the moment.

However, these can be rather intense, and I would not undertake these without spiritual direction. It is, however, my good fortune that near the TLM community in which I prefer hearing Mass live some Carmelite Fathers. I think I'd do well to approach them for spiritual direction.

The thought that came into my mind on reading what you say:

“This…is what I pray before the Father from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name: Out of His infinite glory, may He give you the power through His Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.” *
*“Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.”
[Ephesians 3: 14-21]

I wanted to be a Carmelite nun. Wasn't to be. One day, years later, I expressed my regret to the Mother Prioress: "You are a Carmelite though." How she could say that I do not know, but there it is.

Louis Martin had wanted to be a priest. Zelie Martin had wanted to be a nun.
Not God's will for them, but to be parents of Therese of Lisieux, Saint and Doctor of the Church. Both Louis and Zelie were beatified 19 Oct 2008.
Maybe you could ask them to pray for you?

Trishie, thank you so much. These are beautiful words, and I have a feeling that they may be the subject of lectio for me for a while.

I was uncharacteristically in tears by the end of reading your post. Why that was, I cannot quite place. For a moment I maintained my stiff upper lip, but finally, alone, I submitted to the sentiment. Then, it was as though, for a moment, Blesseds Louis and Zélie were in the same room as I.

I believe they will be intercessors for my cause. If you know of any prayers to them, do kindly post them. And please continue your prayers for me.

You dear soul!
Some time ago, I asked all the Martins to pray for me, and I felt I was in the room with them too!
When I read your postings, I felt certain that all will be well. That God will lead and guide you. I felt peace about you.

That family...even their 'black sheep', if Leonie could be described as that, has her cause underway for canonization. In one sense they are very ordinary, and this makes their holiness and example even more powerful.

The family went through many trials, loss of four children, Zelie's slow death from breast cancer whe Therese was four, Louis' final illness where strokes damaged his mind and he had to be institutionalized.

I guess my spirituality was formed by There's autobiographical notebooks, but if you read it try to get a full translation rather than the more abridged and edited early versions.
Abba let me not be wasted

My Father, please do not let me be wasted! I cling to you with eyes full of knowledge of my sinfulness, raised pleadingly to Yours. I know that You cannot reject me, with love great as Yours. You gaze at me with tenderness as tears trickle from my heart.

Father, let me not be wasted. Throughout the ages, only now do I have opportunity for a lifetime of faith and love to benefit others and to seek eternal joy. You know I try to love and serve, but inadequately, and might despair except for Your love. Instead, I lean my cheek to Yours, knowing that You cannot turn me away, and that Your heart moves with irrepressible pity!

I am only a scrap of humanity crippled by sinfulness and doubt, who slipped past Your great and holy ones, into Your arms. Yet I am a person, redeemed, therefore, You may use me to serve the kingdom of Your love. You may use me to delight the deep recesses of Your heart!

I open to You all my sinfulness, along with any merit granted to me. Into Your mercy, I surrender all goodness, all iniquity of my life—for to withhold anything from You is ''privacy'' and ''a possession'' that could ruin Your life in me. Although I am tempted to lose heart before my sinfulness and lukewarmness facing Your resplendent holiness, I know that, despite frailty and difficulties, You can bring good beyond all human thought and ways.

Do not let me be wasted, Father. Little is possible to me, but all is to You. Two humble loaves, five paltry fish, can in divine hands break to feed a multitude! I do not doubt divine foolishness in love that gives a-billion fold for gift of the little that I am. Nothing in me or in my life justifies such extravagant hope. Yet Your eyes sparkle softly with delight and I am lost within their depths and found within Your all powerful, transforming, compassionate and unconditional love.

In response to human sin, Father, You mercifully give us Christ and Church, saints and martyrs, forgiveness and redemption, sacrament and grace, love, and everlasting life. Glimpsing the mystery of so vast divine compassion, I dare to ask for everything, for each holy soul...for each person who strives and suffers...for each poor soul, frail, misled, errant, or ordinary. I plead for each person who dares not presume to come so close to Your loving heart, even if his or her merit is far greater than is mine! For each soul, I ask of You the fullness of Your prayer for them, the full treasure of the name and nature that You intend for each, within time and eternity.

Speak in me, in us, beyond our limited, worldly thoughts, ways and dreams. I trust entirely to You, within my life that is Your own life and sacrament within me. Leave nothing to me—although I will try the best that I can manage. Please Yourself utter and answer all Your love’s hope and intent, with the powerful liberty of creativity, choice, action and love that You yearn to loose in Your children, if only we would cooperate with humility and trust!

In all things, I surrender to the fullness of Your purpose and prayer for me and for others whom You wish to bless through me. I do so especially in the Eucharist, the highest prayer of the whole Mystical Body throughout time, in its true function, actuality and effect. For I am Yours, and plead endlessly in my heart, that you do not allow waste of this little human vessel at Your breast, insignificant as it is except in You.

Thank You Father that I can hope in Your merciful love that embraces even the ‘least’ of persons.

Little Child

Thank You God for the grace You give of not letting me feel ‘holy’ even when I try my best! Thank You for making my awareness of You natural and simple. Thank You that my mind, unable to grasp Your awesome greatness and immense love, often puts aside its puzzled wonder or its complacency, and reaches out to touch You as a small trusting child.

As Your child, I surrender forever to Your love, to Your Eucharist, to You, entreating that I always live in Your reality and love. In every moment of my existence, delight Yourself in me, cherish Yourself in me, utter and answer within me the wishes hidden in Your heart.

Father, Jesus, Holy Trinity, please charm Each Other in me forever, so that through this You will lead many others into Yourself also. Thank You for Your love that makes such request possible!

A good translation would include "The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, John Clark,
translated from the original manuscripts (written under obedience)
In this you should find background material, and extracts from letters written by Zelie.
I do have some extracts of inspiring letters between Therese and Celine (sister) and Leonie. I could copy them from my journal is you wished.

As it happens, every one of the sisters has had her cause introduced, I believe.

Becoming as little children
Jesus says, “I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God** like a little child will never enter it.” [Luke18: 17]

Therese of Lisieux elucidates how to live as child before God. *“The only way to advance rapidly in the path of love is to always remain very little” “‘Remaining little’ means—to recognise ones nothingness, to await everything from the goodness of God, to avoid being much troubled at our faults; finally, not to be worried about amassing spiritual riches.” “There is but one means of compelling God not to judge us, and it is—to appear before Him empty-handed...spend your treasures as you gain them...All my earnings [merits] are spent immediately on the ransom of souls...Our Lord is justice Himself, and if He does not judge our good actions, neither will He judge our bad ones.”

In response to a novice who was discouraged by her faults, Therese said*, “You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not know how to walk. In his desire to reach to top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls.” “Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder, He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitful efforts, He will Himself come down, and taking you in His arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth.”

To another, Therese said*, “You want to climb the mountain, whereas God wishes you to descend it. He is awaiting you in the valley of humility.” “It seems to me that humility is truth (honesty).” “If the greatest sinner should repent at the moment of his death, and draw his last breath in an act of love, neither the many graces he had abused, nor the multiplied crimes he had committed, would stand in his way. Our Lord would see nothing, count nothing, but the sinner’s last prayer, and without delay He would receive him into the arms of His mercy.”

Therese Martin has inspired generations of individuals to live the gospel way of spiritual childhood, including her family. In Celine Martin’s “Counsels and Reminiscences”, we note that while Therese died a saint at twenty-four, Celine strove against her imperfections until her holy death in her ninetieth year. Celine remained pupil of her young sister.

When Therese, as her novice mistress, warned Celine what form her spiritual struggle would take, she might have been speaking any of us. “*You must never believe, when you don’t practice virtue, that it is due to some natural cause like illness, time, or grief. You must draw a great lesson in humility from it and take your place among the little souls, since you are able to practice virtue only in such a feeble manner. Therese added, “What is necessary for you now is not to practice heroic virtues but to acquire humility. For that, your victories must of necessity always be mixed **with failures, so that you cannot take any pleasure in thinking about them.”*

Celine wrote of her struggle “*with the faults that constantly kept me in a state of humiliation, for, due to my impulsive temperament, I often had little outbursts with the sisters that afflicted me a great deal on account of my self-love. I thought my exterior was deceiving, that I was better than I appeared to be: from that, I developed a certain frustration at not being judged at my true worth. Then my little sister endeavoured, by her penetrating instruction embellished with symbolic stories adapted to my circumstances, to make me love the shame I was in.” “S*he made me find my joy in believing that I was a ‘very little soul’ whom God constantly had to support because it was nothing but weakness and imperfection.

Dear Celine! Even seven months before her death, she sent a note to a Sister whom she*feared she had disedified,‘Oh! How you touched me last night by your kindness, your meekness, your affection; me, who showed myself so headstrong; I humbly ask your pardon’.”* She signed it by the name sometimes used amongst her sisters during childhood, “little repentant Celine.”

Towards the end, she wrote*,** “If I consider where I am, I notice that I have not gone forward but backward…And there is astonishing peace even though it exists in darkness. I take as my own this passage from a prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas: ‘At distant intervals, Lord, You draw me out of my lethargy, but alas! They are only passing visits. I do not know if You love me or I love You…I do not even know if I live by faith! I find only infidelity in myself, only random beginnings…and yet I long for You!’”*
“Oh! Yes, I too, but I am not discouraged; and for many years have taken comfort in this verse of Psalm 63… “Oh God, my God, for You I long, for You my soul is thirsting. My body pines for You like a dry weary land without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory; for Your mercy is better than life.” “I feel this so deeply that, in my imperfection, although I regret it, thrill with happiness at the thought that God’s mercy is better than life. Perfection, the possession of virtues, spiritual consolations, is what I call ‘life’. ‘Death’ is the state in which I am now, in that dry weary land without water. This state does not prevent me however, from approaching God with assurance, as if I were perfect, because I know it and feel it that ‘His mercy is better than life.’…Yes, I rely only on God’s mercy and on His compassion; I want to arouse His compassion by my poverty, for I know that is how I will have gained all.”*

Therese’s* “little way” **of spiritual childhood was summarised by her Carmelite sisters, Celine and Pauline. It is the way of unselfish love, recognising that the “indescribable condescension”* of Jesus is open even to the poorest of souls. It is the way of* “joyful humility, passionate trust in Merciful Love, total abandonment to the divine will.” It is in “hidden sacrifices full of love and fidelity to every-day duties” with a “deep and experiential understanding of the Fatherhood of God.” It is in “zeal for souls.” It is lived with trust in our loving God. Such simplicity of heart is not of a childish nature, but childlike in its trust.** “It is love alone that counts,”* wrote Therese. “And love is total abandonment, the blind trust of a little child in its heavenly father, which cannot work without a profound humility and which becomes, without anyone suspecting it, a natural virtue as it is in all little ones.”

On the fiftieth anniversary of Therese’s death, the Pope sent Celine the following message regarding the little way of spiritual childhood*.* “Many think that it is a special way reserved to the innocent souls of young novices in order to guide them in their first steps, and that it is not suited to already mature individuals who need much prudence because of their great** responsibilities. That is to forget that our Lord Himself recommended this way to all children of God, even to those who have, like the apostles He formed, the greatest of responsibilities, that of the care of souls."

Contemplation of the words of these women prompts reflection upon a culture of love that is bequeathed through parental and family behaviours. It appears that Therese’s family may have attained a greater degree of love than many families, although the sisters do not conceal their struggle towards the purity of that love. The Martin family interactions may indicate that that fewer elements of unlove were communicated in their family than in many other admirable families.

To be in the company of the Martin family, to have them pray for us, is a privilege the greater in hearing the story and the words of the one whom some regarded as the least one of the family, Leonie

Least little one
It is not necessary to be regarded as a ‘beautiful flower’ to please God. Nor is it necessary to be honoured or to have good self-esteem or cleverness to become holy in God’s eyes.

I rejoice in having discovered, in a “CARMEL in the World” magazine, some information regarding the Martin sister for whom I have sometimes shed sympathetic tears. She alone of the sisters could not share the same Carmelite Monastery or experience Therese’s unfolding sanctity firsthand. In this way, she was somewhat an outsider in her family.

Leonie was regarded as the ‘difficult child’ who led her dying mother to grieve*, “I just don’t know what to do with her.”* Racked with terminal breast-cancer, Zelie Martin prayed that God would spare her life to continue her efforts to ‘straighten out’ Leonie. Saint Therese of Lisieux compassionately called her ‘poor Leonie’. The sisters of Saint Therese in Carmel assuredly became holy. Yet it is “poor Leonie” who is being considered for beatification by the Church! Leonie was promoted for beatification because of the favours and miracles she has obtained for those who asked her intercession, not because her Religious community of Visitation Sisters at Caen requested it.

Whether or not Leonie is beatified, her witness shows that God can effect holiness in anyone who cooperates with divine grace, no matter how poor his or her nature. The call to holiness is to every individual, even to those least expected to succeed. She offers hope for those insignificant and damaged individuals who may be marginalised and overlooked. She encourages us to trust in the loving mercy of God and the Little Way of spiritual childhood regardless of our strengths or weaknesses. Leonie also represents hope for parents who are at wits’ end in the guidance of their ‘difficult’ children.

Even from birth, Leonie suffered from medical conditions, including the eczema and intestinal problems that plagued her throughout life. She was less intelligent than her sisters, she was accident-prone, and disobedient. Her aunt, Sr. Marie-Dosithee offered to take Leonie in hand but found her to be so difficult that her health declined and Leonie was returned to Alencon.

In later attempts, the Aunt changed tactics from scolding to gentleness, with temporary success. After Leonie returned home, her mother sadly wrote, “With others, she loses all her self-control and becomes terribly unruly.” As Leonie could not conform at school, Zelie hired tutors, but they could not persevere with the unsettled girl and finally her eldest sister Marie was appointed as her tutor. Leonie, comparing herself unfavourably to her sisters in behaviour, appearance, and intelligence, sadly suggested that perhaps *‘*the real Leonie’ had been exchanged at birth.

Leonie knew that she lacked her sisters’ enthusiastic piety and according to her mother, she “will not pray to the Lord unless she has no choice.” Yet when at her own request her mother shared with her the life of Jesus, Leonie wept when listening to her account of the Passion. With this love of Jesus and with meek awareness of her faults, Leonie actually revealed the seeds of the true gospel spirituality and of the humility that was later to lead to holiness.

Leonie shared none of the holy sentiments of her sisters in receiving her First Communion (May 1875, at age twelve). Later she confessed, “that day was not the finest of my life; my childhood and youth were spent in suffering the bitterest trials.” Her severest trial was in recognising that although like her sisters she knew the catechism thoroughly, she remained prone to moodiness and temper outbursts.

Leonie was aware of the anxiety that her behaviour caused. She agonised over her own incorrigibility and self-perceived inferiority. However, to the surprise and some regretful scepticism of family, when her aunt lay dying, Leonie wrote to her requesting that she intercede with God that she be granted conversion and grace “to be a true religious.”

Although less favoured than her sisters, Leonie’s aspirations reveal the God’s blessing upon this troubled adolescent. Leonie nevertheless endured several unsuccessful attempts to enter Religious life, and only succeeded in becoming a professed Religious after the death of her saintly youngest sister.

Therese wrote,“Jesus is well pleased with you; I know it; although He still allows you infidelities in your heart. I am sure that the actions of love, which He gathers up, outnumber them by far. Which of us two Therese’s will be more fervent? Whichever is more humble, more united to Jesus, more faithful in performing every action through love. Oh, let us pray for each other that we may be equally faithful…Let us not refuse Him even the smallest sacrifice; everything is so important in religion, that even picking up a pin, if it is done through love, can convert a soul. What a great mystery! It is Jesus alone who can

There are often mitigating reasons for behavioural problems. Some of Leonie’s problems arose from her birth in the middle of a large family where both parents worked. Her father was often required to travel and her mother, a fine lace maker, was required to work long hours even as she grew increasingly ill. These conditions allowed the housemaid, Louise, to gain power over Leonie with threats of violence if she obeyed anyone but herself. When this was discovered, Zelie managed to achieve a gentle change in Leonie’s behaviour, although Leonie still rebelled if anyone other than her mother requested anything of her.

When Zelie died of breast cancer, the family moved to Lisieux, and Leonie boarded with the Benedictine nuns. Young Therese and Celine chose Marie and Pauline as surrogate mothers; just as when Therese was ill and delirious, it was evident although Leonie lovingly nursed her, the little girl desired Marie. However, Therese kindly chose Leonie as her sponsor for Confirmation.

Following two failed attempts at Religious life, Leonie’s limitations were further highlighted when her youngest sister Therese entered Carmel at fifteen. Soon afterwards, Leonie found herself responsible for caring for their father alongside Celine, but with the three sisters in Carmel writing for news of him, addressed their letters to Celine, with only brief postscripts to Leonie. Despite their goodness, the Martin sisters appeared unable to take Leonie seriously, thus reinforcing her poor self-esteem, although she accepted these things humbly as her due.

Three years later, Leonie made a retreat with the Visitation Sisters whom she frequently visited. Subsequently she received permission to enter the convent. At this time, Therese began to write letters that remained to encourage Leonie.

Therese wrote,“Jesus is well pleased with you; I know it; although He still allows you infidelities in your heart. I am sure that the actions of love, which He gathers up, outnumber them by far. Which of us two Therese’s will be more fervent? Whichever is more humble, more united to Jesus, more faithful in performing every action through love. Oh, let us pray for each other that we may be equally faithful…Let us not refuse Him even the smallest sacrifice; everything is so important in religion, that even picking up a pin, if it is done through love, can convert a soul. What a great mystery! It is Jesus alone who can give such value to our actions; let us love Him with all our hearts.”

After their father’s death Celine entered Carmel with her sisters, while Leonie continued to struggle with her flaws. She found difficulty in following the Divine Office in Latin; and finding her Profession day deferred, she wrote humbly to Therese, “No human being will see my efforts, for I will keep them hidden in my heart. I will try to make myself forgotten; I need no eyes to see me but those of Jesus. What does it matter if to others I seem poor, bare of intelligence and talent?” However by July 1895, her ill health, her emotional difficulties and the austerity of the Rule, led her to the leave the Visitation Order.

A year later Leonie wrote to Therese, “You, my darling, are ready to go to meet God. You will surely be well received.”* In a spirit typical of Therese, Leonie continued, “But I will face Him empty-handed; yet I have the temerity not to be afraid. Do you understand that?”* Then sweetly inquiring about Therese’s health Leonie humbly continued, “And tell me about God, and about everything that can make me grow in virtue; these are the only things that truly make me happy… If you only knew how much help that I need… Dear sister, you will prevent me from making my old mistakes, won’t you? I am so weak… I beg of you to ask God very specially to deliver me from my scruples; I am always turning in on myself, and this does me terrible damage, and hinders my attempts at perfection. You may be sure I’m showing you my wounds as clearly as I can.”

Therese wrote back,* “If it were necessary to do great things we should be deserving of pity, but we are happy beyond measure, because Jesus lets Himself be captured by the smallest action… With you dear Leonie, little sacrifices are never lacking. Is not your life made up of them? I rejoice to see you in the presence of such wealth, especially when I remember that you know how to make profit thereby, not only for yourself but also for poor sinners. It is so sweet to help Jesus to save souls which He has ransomed at the price of His Precious Blood, and which only await our help to keep them from the abyss.*

*“It seems to me that if our sacrifices take Jesus captive, our joys make Him prisoner too. All that is needful to attain this end is that, instead of giving ourselves over to selfish happiness, we offer to (Him) the little joys He scatters in our path to charm our hearts and draw them towards Him. You ask for news of my health. Well my cough has quite disappeared. Does that please you? It will not prevent God from taking me to Himself whensoever He wishes. And I need not prepare for that journey, since my whole endeavour is to remain as a little child. Jesus Himself must pay all my expenses, as well as the price of my admission to Heaven.” *

The letters of both sisters revealed a humble and trusting spirit. In her final letter to Leonie in July 1897, Therese emphasised the importance of accepting God’s will in both trials and joys, rejoicing in both as gifts of God’s love. Therese’s final illness had lingered longer than expected, but she wrote*, “This does not distress me; I would not want my own will to bring me to Heaven one moment sooner…our only happiness on earth is to concentrate on always finding the lot which Jesus gives us delightful… If you want to be a saint… keep only one end in view, give pleasure to Jesus and bind yourself more closely to Him.” “You asked me to pray to the Sacred Heart for you, when I am in Heaven; I won’t forget to give Him your messages and to ask Him to send you all you need in order to become a great saint.”*

Leonie’s position always remained humble, however she was happy with “little sacrifices known only to Jesus”, her “little nothings that she offered for the salvation of souls “as little as I am myself.” She had special compassion for anyone in sadness or difficulty, having experienced these from infancy. “I have suffered greatly from my inferiority,” *she wrote, “I have felt keen isolation of heart—of every kind. I experience the same difficulties again and again; worries, dislikes and weariness of all sorts. But I feel that all these kinds of torments are a purification —that God is at work; and I thank Him for all of it.” “I know well that Jesus asks nothing of His lowly little one except effort; and so I am far from being discouraged, for I want to remain in my complete helplessness, which is my strength. By this childish ruse I touch the heart of God.”*Clearly, Leonie had learned well to put into practice the Little Way of spiritual childhood witnessed by Therese.

Leonie’s Carmelite sisters continued to write encouraging letters, as a sense of inferiority and rebellion in infancy and childhood confers some lasting difficulties, and ill health can cause emotional stress. Her sister Pauline wrote, *“How God has loved you, and how surprised you will be in Heaven by the glory and love you enjoy! It’s all the same to God if one has a bumpy forehead and crooked teeth!”*Leonie was aware of her lack of soundness, as she endured itchy eczema, scalp dermatitis, loss of her ‘crooked teeth’, migraines, nausea, intestinal inflammation, ingrown toenails, and frequent colds that developed into bronchitis or pneumonia. In 1930, her knees required surgery, and henceforward she was unsteady, her condition exacerbated by painful, crippling rheumatism.

Leonie lived with pain and discomfort, however the Visitation community cared very kindly for “the shrivelled old woman” who was unable to “find any comfortable position”* for her aching body. “My ailments are increasing,” she wrote, “No part of me is healthy any longer except my eyes, my heart, and my head, thanks be to God—but He can take everything, for everything belongs to Him! I abandon my intelligence, small and poor as it is.”* If God desired it of her, Leonie offered to sacrifice everything, even to suffer the feared loss of mental faculties that her father endured.

In 1941, Leonie suffered a stroke as she rose to receive Communion, losing her ability to speak. She lingered for five days until dying on June 17. During those last days, Leonie clutched both a rosary from Marie and a crucifix, mute testimony of her love. When on her last evening two lay sisters brought her roses sent by her Carmelite sisters, Leonie, Therese-like, lovingly unpetalled them over her crucifix. Hearing of her death, thousands ignored Nazi occupation forces to honour this humble Sister. God also appears to honour this woman of ‘little worth’. 

We thank You God for providing us with such humble, ordinary, practical saints as the Martin sisters, to light the Way of the gospel for Your people and to intercede powerfully for us. Thank You for such extraordinary Saints whom ordinary people cannot follow without being overwhelmed, even as one is inspired and instructed by their holiness and teaching. Theirs appears to be supernatural giftedness.

Their intercession reaps monumental graces for souls, yet in Saint Therese and her holy sisters, You illuminate the way for ordinary people to be made holy in Your sight whether or not there is earthly evidence of Your action. Let Your Saints inspire us to seek and obtain grace and salvation for our brothers and sisters of the world.

The Martin sisters are the best testimony of their parent's holiness.
If you become family with the Martins, then you don't need special prayers to speak to them,
Just talk to them simply and ask what you need them to pray for as naturally as if they are your parents and your sisters, and you will find yourself drawn and led as God desires.
Because it already seems that they have taken you into their care...or I'd have missed your thread anyway, and you wouldn't have had the sense of being in the room with Zelie and Louis, as I too did when I asked them to help me to be who God wants me to be. I asked them because they so truly lived love of God and of others, and because they loved, love, each other so very much a supported each other so lovingly, that I hoped they could include me in their like you, and like Therese, I wanted to strive to be everything God wanted. I want to delight God, as God deserves us to. God deserves the very best, even if to us it doesn't seem like much, but "nothing is impossible to God."

*Jesus, pray in me *

Jesus our Brother and our God, please continually pray Your perfect prayer in me so that I love and honour God, and so that I cherish and serve others in prayer and act, because each person is so precious to God.

Jesus, please ask the Father to honour my debts, for my intercession, penance and good works are no more than cheques drawn in His name. I have no coin of my own. Even my best efforts would be worthless if the Father failed to acknowledge me as His lawful child.

Jesus, You are Son of the Father and coequal of the Spirit. Only through Your incarnation, death and resurrection comes my claim to call God ‘Father’. No words or acts ever can thank You enough. I have little to offer but goodwill and effort and a heart sometimes grieved by unintentional injury of others. Yet I offer You resurgent hope raised by Your undeserved love, and faith encouraged by Your promise of faithfulness.

Please celebrate my trust in Your love and in the truth of who I am in the love of God. Heal any wounds I have left in others’ lives, and recreate our spirits in Your love. Then offer us as gift of Yourself to the Father who accepts all things through You.

Please take all the debts that by prayer for them, I incur for my sisters and brothers of the kingdom and of the world. Present these debts to the Father with Your transformation and blessing—for He will grant freely all that You ask and more, so deep is His love for You. Thank You, Jesus who are our redemption before God.

*Our God, speak in me *

God, please ‘speak’ in me all that is necessary for the fulfilment of Your desire for my life and for anyone You hope to benefit through me.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, in the infinite possibilities of Your love, You know what must be ‘spoken’.

Whatever entreaty and faith must be offered to obtain this ‘utterance’, please ‘speak’ also in me—for only You can.

I ask this for fulfilment of Your loving will in my life, and for the healing, repentance and conversion of souls whom You desire to save or bless through me.
I ask, and believe, that You continually utter Yourself in me according to Your eternal desire. You delight Yourself in me…in us!

Thereby, with our cooperation, You will fulfil our portion of Your plan of redemption. I trust this to the name of the divine and risen Saviour who shares our humanity.

In the presence of God

God, I cannot see, hear, or feel You, but I am in Your presence. I gaze at You with faith that sees nothing yet believes. Trust in Your merciful love with hope in Your reality, brings peace even when my limitations and sinfulness barb my human heart.

I am inconstant and selfish, yet unafraid and hopeful, for You rejoice in the sincere, contrite person who comes trustingly before You. I welcome Your forgiveness for my sins and omissions, confident that You will glorify Yourself in me—by being my thoughts, my efforts, my love, my truth, my wisdom, my whole life, prayer, and existence!

As I have no merit of my own, so may You, the more, glorify Yourself in me! Please flood me with Your love, transforming me into Your substance. Thus, even if I remain in seemingly unconverted darkness, I shall be continual offering to You of the perfection of Your own all-creating, all-knowing, all-loving, all-good, harmonious, selfless Self-Love that created me.

Let Your love continually flow into anyone whose life touches mine, so that I am witness and experience of Your love for him or her. I pray, and trust, that You utter within me for others, all prayer that You desire to offer and grant in the love that issues from Your infinite presence.

Thank You God, for although I do not see, hear, or feel You, our God, I know that by Your life in me I am always with You.

“Do not grieve...that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. That privilege was not taken from you. As Jesus says, ‘Whatever you have done for the least of my little ones, you have done for me.’” Saint Augustine.

God if I really knew Your love

God, I barely realise my blindness, deafness, and ignorance before You. I suspect the truths of Your love as distant music, though I yearn to know and love You. I desire to be pure, zealous and faithful after example of Jesus and Mary, so that through me, You may channel love and blessing to many others.

If I really knew You, God, if I knew Your love, goodness and power, Your ways and thoughts beyond all earthly kind, then what would I ask, seek, and offer to You and to others' souls for Your sake! How would I live and serve, if I knew, and truly loved! What would I ask of You, of the Mother, of each Saint and Angel, in daring trust? These I ask anyway, although I am sinful, ignorant, and lukewarm!

My heart reaches out in quiet faith to the Father who is infinite Creator so great that He intimately cherishes each of billions of lowly creatures throughout the ages. My heart reaches out to follow the Son *whom He surrendered to creature-hood and to death-that-rose, drawing each person into relationship with God. My heart reaches out *to touch the Spirit, who transforms all things.

My self-interest undermines my spiritual vitality and efficacious service. I am an erratic, ordinary person, yet in Your intention, I am a glorious reflection of Your love.

No prayer and goodwill can free me from sinfulness, but with faith, I leap over this deadly barrier. For even as I strive or fail, I trustfully ask You to judge me neither by sin nor by merit, but only by Your love! Free me from Your judgement even in my flaws that may separate us or impede the flood of Your goodness through my life to others. I take to myself no merit to clothe my pride or to secure glory in heaven or on earth—so that You may apply these to other souls in need.

God, if by no judgement of my merit or sin do You love and act through me—then Your wisdom, goodness and life can engulf and flow from me to others. This music—of love and holiness, of You within us—may be pitched to perfection, beyond earthly perception. Yet please let each moment (each atom, all thought, word, and act, each frailty and each grace) of my life be transformed in Your love. Let it be formed into exquisite notes of Your eternal symphony to delight and praise You far beyond my understanding.

With faith, I offer You my daily duty and routine, with its joy, prayer, hope, and struggle. Let Your Spirit pray and fulfil in me all that I would become, seek, ask, and do, if Your love and truth were known to me. This, God is the lifelong prayer of this sinful, contrite, hopeful creature.

“Walk with simplicity in the way of the Lord and do not torment your spirit. Learn to hate your faults but to hate them calmly.” *(Saint Padre Pio) *“Heaven is filled with converted sinners of all kinds, and there is room for more” (St. Joseph Cafaso)

I think you'll find the influence of St Therese/ the Martin family, in my prayers

Love through me

Holy God, unless You love through me, I cannot love You above all, or cherish other persons, as Jesus loves me. Therefore I ask You to know, love and serve through me, for my attempts may be tainted with selfish responses or kindly mistakes. Others’ logic and reality before You is mystery to me, for I have only my own consciousness. I know something of my sinfulness, yet what appears to be ‘sin’ in others may instead be a differing virtue, or a product of innocence or ignorance that only appears to be sin or error.

I ask You Who-Are-Love to be my love and service of others, welcoming everyone as Your beloved. I want to celebrate Your love, beauty and inspiration in others, even if it is obscure. Let Your Spirit fill my heart, mouth and prayer with gifts of Your love and truth for others. Let me be endowment of Your own self, Your sacrament, and our gentle Mother present to them. I ask this despite my evident failures in loving.

I believe that You will free me wholly into Your love, wisdom, and compassion. I wait humbly in my daily efforts, knowing that in Your mercy You will grant my prayer to love Yourself in me with all strength and being, and to love others through me with Jesus’ love.

Least servant

Holy God, I give You all I have and am, with my desires, attributes, inadequacies and sinful tendencies. To Your acceptance and disposal, I relinquish my spiritual ambitions, my lifelong prayer and service, and any ‘merit’.

Only pride or ignorance elevates any ‘virtues’ above my faults, because human nature is poor relative to Your infinite holiness and creativity. Let Your goodness be touchstone and essence of my response to all created things and persons—so that nothing can withdraw me from freedom of obedience to Your loving will.

To You I yield all my relationships, even those most dear. Let Your Spirit communicate and interact with them so that I no longer act selfishly and detrimentally to my own and others’ welfare, nor love anyone in preference to You.

I surrender to You all my thoughts, words and acts, so that You guide and complete all my responses and initiatives. Let Your Spirit flow creatively through my nature and action, so that nothing in me can confound Your loving purpose, nor will anything be inappropriate or harmful to any person.

Merciful God, I know that You pardon my sins. I know that out of my offences and omissions, You create wondrous fruit. You give boundless recompense to anyone who suffers through my fault. You give limitless blessing to anyone who offers me even the smallest kindness, from earliest infancy until God unites me in beatific vision with the communion of saints.

I am Your child who has irretrievably surrendered all being, all gifts, all relationship, all virtuous effort, and all failure to Your merciful love. I claim You to be my whole existence, my breath, my blood, my very substance and all my thoughts and ways.

Your action may be hidden to me in my inglorious daily struggle, my erratic judgement and frequently fruitless endeavour. It may be concealed under my sense of unworthiness and occasional desolation. Yet may You continually blaze Your pure love and truth within me, to Your glory and delight, and to highest service of other souls.

*Translate me into Your own terms *

Dear God, I choose to love You truly and to allow You to love and serve others through me. I want to live Your dream of me fully, but I may misinterpret Your will and inspiration as it refracts through my emotions and mental processes. Please nevertheless fulfil all that You desire through my life and prayer.

Flood Your love to others though all my efforts and errors. Grant me faith, fidelity, wisdom and prayer. Recreate me in the fullness of Your will and fill me with Your love, for sake of Your honour and delight, and for salvation of souls.

Let me be the person who You dream me to be, so that Your desire for Yourself and for each soul You place in my care or influence is generously fulfilled.

Translate me into Your own terms as I come contritely and gropingly before You in humble trust, with my imperfect efforts. I know that You have mercy on good intentions even if these are misguided. Yet please let me know Your will—for You have said, “I will instruct you, and teach you the way to go; I will watch over you and be your adviser.” (Psalm 32: v. 8)

God bless, I'm sorry I got carried away. It happens sometimes. Looking forward meeting you in heaven though! :)
By the way, speaking of amrriage and parenthood, the possibility of which you mentioned, I'm mother of three sons

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