…just a short section from st. therese’s autobiography. she had lots of desires growing up, ever since she was a little girl, and here she reveals some of those desires. she, however, was able to find her vocation through this process, and she realized, her vocation is love. read on.
Yet I long for other vocations: I want to be a warrior, a priest, an apostle, a doctor of the Church, a martyr…I would like to perform the most heroic deeds. I feel I have the courage of a Crusader. I should like to die on the battlefield in defense of the Church.
If only I were a priest! How lovingly, Jesus, would I hold you in my hands when my words had brought you down from heaven and how lovingly would I give you to the faithful. Yet though I long to be a priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi and feel that I should imitate him and refuse the sublime dignity of the priesthood. How can I reconcile these desires?
Like the prophets and the doctors of the Church, I should like to enlighten souls. I should like to wander through the world, preaching your Name and raising your glorious Cross in pagan lands. But it would not be enough to have only one field of mission work. I should not be satisfied unless I preached the Gospel in every quarter of the globe and even in the most remote islands. Nor should I be content to be a missionary for only a few years. I should like to have been one from the creation of the world and to continue as one till the end of time. But, above all, I long to be a martyr. From my childhood I have dreamt of martyrdom, and it is a dream which has grown more and more real in my little cell in Carmel. But I don’t want to suffer just one torment. I should have to suffer them all to be satisfied. Like you, my adorable Jesus, I want to be scourged and crucified. I want to be flayed like St. Bartholomew. Like St. John, I want to be flung into boiling oil. Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, I long to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, ground into a bread worthy of God. With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, I want to offer my neck to the sword of the executioner, and, like Joan of Arc, murmur the name of Jesus at the stake. My heart leaps when I think of the unheard tortures Christians will suffer in the reign of anti-Christ. I want to endure them all. My Jesus, fling open that book of life in which are set down the deeds of every saint. I want to perform them all for you!
These desires caused me a real martyrdom, and so one day I opened the epistles of St. Paul to try to find some cure for my sufferings. And in chapters twelve and thirteen of the First Epistle to the Corinthians I read that we cannot all be apostles, prophets, and doctors, that the Church is made up of different members, and that the eye cannot also be the hand. This answer was clear enough, but it did not satisfy me and brought me into peace. But as St. John of the Cross says, “descending into the depths of my own nothingness, I was raised so high that I reached my goal.” I went on reading and came to: “Be zealous for the better gifts. ANd I show unto you a yet more excellent way.” The apostle explains how even all the most perfect gifts are nothing without love and that charity is the most excellent way of going safely to God. I had found peace at last.
I thought of the Mystical Body of the Church, but I could not recognize myself in any of its members listed by St. Paul – or, rather, I wanted to recognize myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I realized that if the Church was a body made up of different members, she would not be without the greatest and most essential of them all. I realized that love includes all vocations, that love is all things, and that, because it is eternal it embraces every time and place.
– Chapter 11, The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul (translated by John Beevers)