"Do you reject Satan?"
"I do," I answered.
But trembled at the
mention of that Name.
"And all His works?"
"I do," I said again,
looking the bishop in the eye
and praying fervently that I would.
"And all His
(But my soul
"No! I don't! I'll never be
able to reject them!")
It was the fall of 1974. I was the only grownup in a pew filled with teenaged Confirmation candidates reciting their nervous "I do's."
As a recent convert, ex-druggie, long-time drunk, and former soldier, I was acquainted with the night. Memories of past sins danced in my mind. Nonetheless, that evening -- and with all my strength -- I chose goodness.
* * *
Confirmation didn't banish temptation, didn't drive out despair. Weeks later, troubled by my continued sinfulness and seeking distraction, I happened on the Confirmation gift my sponsor had given me: Fr. Jean D'Elbée's beloved book on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who spent most of her brief life in a cloistered convent.
What could such an innocent teach me?
My eyes fell on this passage:
"I ask that from now on, you never let your past sins be an obstacle between you and Jesus. It's a ruse of the devil to keep putting our sins before our eyes in order to make them like a screen between the Savior and us."
A ruse of the devil?
"Think of your past sins to persuade yourself of your weakness; think of them to confirm your resolution not to fall again -- that's necessary -- but think of them mainly to bless Jesus for having pardoned you, for having purified you, for having cast all your sins to the bottom of the sea.
"Do not go looking for them at the bottom of the sea! He has wiped them out; He has forgotten them."
But I haven't forgotten them
-- and I continue to fall.
"I'm not saying that you believe too much in your own wretchedness. I'm telling you that
you don't believe enough in merciful love."
"Why are you here?
Why were you baptized?
Why have you learned to know
Jesus and to love him?"
"Because God has chosen you,
and preferred you from all eternity,
to heap these graces upon you."
"God's greatest pleasure is to pardon us. The good Lord is more eager to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother to rescue her child from the fire."
That makes sense of Our Lord's words to a holy soul: "Not a single soul falls into Hell that has not torn itself out of my arms."
No wonder St. Thérèse was able to say,
just before her death:
"Even if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence; I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water thrown into the flaming furnace of God's love."
|"This classic beautifully reveals God's deep love for each of us and awakens in us a burning love for Him. If you want to grow in love of God, this book is a must."
Fr. Benedict Groeschel
The pages of the book I received at my Confirmation transformed my understanding of God and brought my soul its first peace in decades.
Listen now -- quietly --
and let it bring you peace, too:
"I assure you, we are bathed in love and mercy. We each have a Father, a Brother, a Friend, a Spouse of our soul, bent down over us, over our weakness and impotence, with inexpressible gentleness, watching over us like the apple of His eye, Who said 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the just, but sinners.'
"This Jesus is haunted by the desire to save us by all means; He has opened Heaven under our feet."
"I heartily endorse this book. It is the best application of St. Thérèse's teaching for individuals seeking to live it daily."
Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Are you troubled by your sins?
Afraid you don't love enough?
"In the same way that Jesus said to St. Augustine, 'You would not seek me if you had not already found me,' He will say to you, 'You would not have this great desire to love me if you did not love me already.' He cannot fail to fulfill, beyond even our greatest hopes, a desire that He himself has inspired."
In just a few hours, this singular book, aptly entitled I Believe in Love, showed me I had to quit relying on my own efforts, and even had to cease judging myself.
Certainly, as I promised that day so long ago,
I still had to reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises. But that was only the beginning.
From Fr. D'Elbée and St. Thérèse I learned I must embrace my own littleness, my poverty, my nakedness, and powerlessness, and seek but a single treasure: abandonment to God's mercy.
In three decades now as a Catholic convert, that's the only program for the interior life I've found to be within my reach.
Today, it's within your reach, too.
Publisher, Sophia Institute Press
"Whoever reads this book attentively and prayerfully will grow in the love of God."
Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
P.S. Please forward this message to those you know who may be struggling with guilt and discouragement. I assure you that St. Thérèse will give them the hope and the courage they need, and that God wants them to have.
"I Believe in Love penetrates to the heart of a saint who, in the words of Pope Pius XII, has 'rediscovered the heart of the Gospels, the heart of Christ, and, through love and humility, the Christ of the heart.' "
"With joy, I welcome the publication of I Believe in Love. May this 'personal retreat' based on the teachings of the little nun of Lisieux be for those who use it an occasion of grace not only to enlighten their minds, but to elevate their souls to approach the sublime destiny that the 'little way' shows to all."
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz
"Sophia Institute Press has done us all a great service
in bringing this work back into print."