St. Paul states that the greatest of all virtues is love. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, said that “Charity is the queen of all virtues.” The Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross, taught that “in the twilight of our existence we will be judged on love.” Finally, the great Doctor of the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, wrote that “The measure that we should love God is to love Him without measure.”
On her liturgical feast day, October 1, the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours give us a glimpse into the burning fire of love that consumed the heart of St. Thérèse and show us what she considered to be her true and authentic vocation.
To undergo the excruciating pains and tortures of the martyrs was not her call, nor could her body endure long hours of fasting. Finally, she came to understand that her vocation was to “be love” within the Church. In her autobiography, St. Thérèse expresses this understanding with passion and desire:
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, proclaimed one of the four women Doctors of the Universal Church, made an act of oblation to the merciful love of the good God. This, indeed, was one of the hallmarks of her attaining the heights of holiness in such a short time — only twenty- four years on earth.
I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling : my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and You gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.
What, then, does this oblation entail for you and me? Humility. A complete trust in the merciful love of Jesus. And a constant willingness to love Jesus at all times and in all places, expressing this will concretely by ardent love for our neighbor.
The fruits of this oblation are countless: a continual purification of the soul, a higher perfection stamped on all the details of life, a constant and ever-more-enlightening effusion of truth, and quick entrance into Heaven without passing through Purgatory. (#13 of the Little Catechism).
After you meditate upon these simple but profound words, Jesus, the King of love, and Mary, whose greatest virtue was charity (supernatural love), along with St. Thérèse herself, will rejoice in your offering yourself to Jesus in oblation as a victim of His merciful love!
The last and greatest commandment of Jesus was given at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I have loved you!” Our final judgment will be determined by our trust in His merciful love.
Offering of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus to the Merciful Love of the Good God
O my God, Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love You and to make You loved, to labor for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and by delivering those who suffer in Purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to attain to the degree of glory which You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom; in a word, I long to be a saint, but I know that I am powerless, and I implore You, O my God, to be Yourself my sanctity.
Since You have so loved me as to give me Your only Son to be my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine; to You I offer them with joy, beseeching You to behold me only through the eyes of Jesus and in His Heart burning with love.
Again, I offer You all the merits of the saints in Heaven and on earth, their acts of love and those of the holy angels. Lastly I offer You, O Blessed Trinity, the love and the merits of the holy Virgin, my most dear Mother; to her I entrust my oblation, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my well-beloved Spouse, during the days of His life on earth, told us: “If you ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it to you.” I am, then, certain that You will hearken to my desires. . . My God, I know it: the more You will to give, the more You make us desire. Immense are the desires that I feel within my heart, and with confidence I call upon You to come and take possession of my soul. I cannot receive You in Holy Communion as often as I would, but, Lord, are You not almighty? . . . Remain in me as in the tabernacle; never leave Your little victim. . . .
I long to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I pray You to take from me the power to displease You. If, through frailty, I sometimes fall, may Your divine glance purify my soul immediately, consuming every imperfection, as fire transforms all things into itself.
I thank You, O my God, for all the graces You have showered on me, in particular for having made me pass through the crucible of suffering. With joy shall I behold You on the last day bearing Your scepter, the Cross. Since You have deigned to give me for my portion this most precious Cross, I hope I may resemble You in Heaven and see the sacred stigmata of Your Passion shine on my glorified body.
After this exile on earth, I hope to enjoy possession of You in the eternal Fatherland, but I have no wish to amass merits for Heaven. I will work for Your love alone, my sole aim being to give You pleasure, to console Your Sacred Heart, and to save souls who will love You forever.
At the close of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I ask not, Lord, that You would count my works. . . . All our good deeds are stained in Your sight. I desire, therefore, to be clothed with Your own justice and to receive from Your love the eternal possession of You. I crave no other throne, no other crown but You, O my Beloved.
In Your sight, time is nothing ; one day is as a thousand years. You can in an instant prepare me to appear before You.
That my life may be one act of perfect love, I offer myself as victim of holocaust to Your merciful love, imploring You to consume me unceasingly, and to let the flood-tide of infinite tenderness pent up in You flow into my soul, so that I may become a martyr of Your love, O my God.
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, break life’s web at last, and may my soul take its flight, unhindered, to the eternal embrace of Your merciful love.
I desire, O my Beloved, at every heartbeat to renew this oblation an infinite number of times, till the shadows fade away and I can tell You my love eternally face-to-face.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from the Little Catechism of the Act of Oblation of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.