Sleep hasn't been coming particularly easy for me in the past many weeks. I often wake up and am unable to go back to sleep for several hours. This is even harder in the hospital on bedrest than it was at home. I have discovered, however, that this is a good time for quiet reading and prayer and I'm able to focus better at this hour than I am during the business of the day. I have had Trusting God With St. Therese on my to-read list since long before all of this madness started but just never picked it up.
I'm honestly thinking that there was a reason for that because right now I have been benefitting from this book in ways that I would not have if I read it straight from new release.
This is the kind of book that is to be savored bite by bite. Even with nonfiction, I often plow through chapter by chapter quickly, but not this book. It almost feels like I need several days just to process each of the sections and kind of let them float around in my brain (and heart) to soak in. It is a blend of biography, personal connections by the author, and reflection questions.
St. Therese is an extraordinary example of striving to live an authentic Christian life in all ways even (especially) when it is hard. Perfect trust leading to perfect love is a huge theme, along with response to hardship and suffering. Trust is obviously something I am being confronted with daily right now, particularly in the face of unknown circumstances. Eventually I just stopped trying to copy down all of the quotes that had an impact on me and seemed particularly poignant at the time I read them, but here are a few examples.
"It is trust and nothing but trust that must bring us to love."
"We trust God, not because we are good, but because he is. The more we trust him, the more he will prove himself trustworthy. Our sins our not too big for God. Our trust is too little."
"Sometimes I honestly tell the Lord, 'Jesus, I trust in you- sort of'. Like the man in the Gospel who said, 'I believe; help my unbelief,' (Mk 9:24), I pray, 'Lord, I trust in your; help my lack of trust. Trust the Father for me. Trust his plan in me, when I am slow to surrender to him'."
"Our natural gifts, our perfect practice of penance, or our perfect triumph over a particular sin can't earn us union with God. That is a gift. God will lead us down the specific path he has paved to get us there. We cannot fail, unless we give up."
This is the first time I have ever written a book review for this blog before I actually finished the book, but it is taking me so much time devour and I just can't keep it a secret any longer. I know many of my friends who are having trials right now, or who have had significant trials in their past need this book the way I do right now. The next chapter is titled "Hoping against hope". Somehow I feel like that describe my whole life right now!
For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with the Catholic spiritual practice of devotion to a particular saint, this is a great book to really understand how the saints, by their earthly example, become role models and help guide us towards a more authentic spiritual life and relationship with Christ. I didn't always understand this practice, especially as a newer convert, and was occasionally tempted to dismiss such devotions as questionable or distracting from the focus of Christ
On the contrary, by including these great saints as honored members of our extended Christian family, we can learn from and be inspired by their stories the same way we learn the stories of our immigrant grandparents and great grandparents. They taught us about perseverance and hard work, and within our extended Christian family are innumerable role models for Christian virtue. Approached this way, having images and stories of the lives of saints in our homes is really not different than having family pictures and photo books. Asking them to pray for us, or intercede on our behalf, from their place of honor in Heaven becomes no different than asking our friends and neighbors to pray for us here on earth. This is, of course, a Catholic book but that doesn't mean it is only for Catholics.
There is something for every Christian to learn from St. Therese.
(Just FYI- Connie Rossini is a Minnesota author and homeschooler, you can visit her blog here)