I Believe in Love: A personal retreat based on the teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux by Fr. Jean C.J. D’Elbee

Conference 1 – Love for Love

The sublime exchange: Jesus takes our sins upon Himself, and we make His merits our own. “My sins on Him, His Blood on me.”

“In this evening of this life I shall appear before You with empty hands. It is just this – to find myself at my death with empty hands – that gives me joy, for, having nothing, I shall receive everything from God. ” ~ St. Therese

All our spiritual wealth, all our supernatural goods, all our life of holiness: all are Jesus and nothing but Jesus. He is ours, His merits are ours, the price of His Blood is ours; He is completely ours.

Meditate – on the love of Jesus in the Gospel, on the love of Jesus in His own life. Then mediate on the love of Jesus in your own life.

“The smallest movement of pure love is worth more to the Church than all works put together” ~ St John of the Cross.

“I have said everything. Everything is accomplished. It is love alone that counts” ~ St Therese

“Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law” ~ Romans 13:10

Here on earth love proves itself by a free choice. When a man loves, he chooses that which he prefers. Jesus wants to be chosen, to be preferred. That is the great mystery of faith.

What power we have against temptation if we are able to say, “I choose You, Jesus, because I love You.”

Love is not sensible piety. Therese said that dryness was her daily bread.

Sanctity is “a disposition of the heart which makes us humble and small in the arms of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident to the point of audacity in the goodness of our Father” ~ St Therese

Love is the uniting of our will to the will of God. It is abandoning ourselves totally into His hands, as a habitual disposition, even if we feel nothing. When Jesus sees this disposition in our hearts, He looks on us as His cherished children. Is not a father very indulgent toward his child? He finds excuses for his child’s failings, and he admires the least of his good qualities.

Do you think you are a joy for Jesus?

Is it not a matter of the most elementary logic that a father and his child should be a joy for one another?  Jesus, You are my joy, and I too am Your joy”

Examine yourself on your intimacy with Jesus, rather than solely on your faults and findings – sins of omission are more frequent than the others.

Conference 2 – Humble Confidence

You must believe in the love of Jesus for you. Love calls for love. How do you give Jesus love for love? Before all and above all, by your confidence in Him.

Confidence is the golden key to Jesus’ heart.

What I cannot do myself Jesus will do.

The elevator which must raise me to the heavens is Your arms, O Jesus!

mercy = misercordia = miseris cor dare = a Heart which gives itself to the miserable.

You may truly say that if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence; I would feel that this multitude of offences would be like a drop of water thrown into a flaming furnace ~ St Therese

Remember that, each time you pick yourself up after a fall, the feast of the prodigal son is renewed.

Example of the good thief – a whole life of sin, one humble and confident look toward the Crucified, and there was the first canonized saint, and canonized by Jesus Himself! A thief who stole Heaven!

Jesus needs nothing but your humility and confidence to work marvels of purification in you. And your confidence will be in proportion to your humility, because it is to the extent that we realize our need of Jesus that we have recourse to Him, and we sense this need to the extent that we justly realize our unworthiness.

Confident souls steal God’s omnipotence. Go to Jesus recognizing that you merit nothing, but expect everything from a completely gratuitous and infinite mercy. Example of Canaanite woman (even the dogs eat the crumbs…) & centurion (Lord I am unworthy…)

What does Jesus lament most when He is with His Apostles? Their lack of confidence. “Men of little faith!”

In time of great distress, think of the Divine Master calming the violent storm with one word.

When we throw our faults, with a completely filial confidence, into the devouring furnace of love, how could they not be totally consumed?

“each moment this merciful love renews me, purifies my soul, and leaves on it no trace of sin” ~ Therese

To reward an act of confidence, Jesus often gives us the occasion to make an even greater act of confidence. Ex – Peter on the lake, Martha & Mary with Lazarus. Because God loves you, He wants to see how far you will push your confidence.

Confidence without limits works all miracles.

Conference 3 – Unshakeable Confidence

“God’s great pleasure is to pardon us. Our faults are grains of sand beside the great mountain of the mercies of God” ~ St John Vianney.

All possible crimes, a drop of water thrown into a blazing furnace ~ St Therese

St. Paul is our great example for us in the way of confidence without limit in divine mercy. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief” (1 Tim 1). And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

Jesus wants to push our confidence: “All things, whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you have already received them, and they shall come unto you” (Mark 11:24).

We must live in a presently existing love. Don’t say you’ll have this some day with God, but right away, today, in the present moment, say to Jesus you know that He loves you and that you love Him.

Never get discouraged.

We must get away with this attitude of distrust, and be in a friendship with Jesus.

How can we detest our wretchedness more each day and at the same time love it?

  • We do not love our wretchedness itself; we love the consequences of it – that is to say, we make use of it to immerse ourselves in humility, then to redouble our confidence and plunge ourselves into the ocean of mercy. Those things go together very well, very well indeed. Therefore, never get discouraged by your faults. Begin by not being astonished at them. A little child who does not know how to walk is not astonished at stumbling and falling with each step he takes. Even a fall strengthens us if we repent of it, since Jesus brings good out of evil.

“We would like never to fall! What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall every moment? It shows me my weakness, and it is a great gain for me. It shows You what I am capable of, and then You will be more tempted to carry me in Your arms. If You do not do so, it will be because it pleases You to see me on the ground… the poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you” ~ St Therese

“I think little children please their parents as much when they sleep as when they are awake.” ~ St ThereseWhat pleases Him is to see me love my littleness and poverty. It is the blind hope which I have in His mercy. There is my only treasure. Why should this treasure not be yours? ~ St Therese

It is confidence and nothing but confidence which must lead us to love ~ St Therese

We might not always feel zealous, but we can always love our littleness & inner poverty… “and come to have nothing but a single treasure: our blind abandonment to mercy.”

In the evening of this life I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You to count my works. ~ St Therese

All the merits of Jesus are mine. He covers me with His Blood. He fills my empty hands with His own virtues and transforms me into Himself.

Trials are graces because pure love is realized in pure faith, and pure faith is realized in darkness in the same way as “strength in perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

CONFERENCE 4 – ABANDONMENT TO JESUS

Without me, you can do nothing ~ John 15:5

With You, Jesus, I can do all things ~ Phil 4:13

Total abandonment is the logical consequence of complete confidence.

Since it is through Jesus that everything must be accomplished, the more I let Him do, the more the work of grace will be beautiful and perfect. What is this work of grace? The transformation of our souls into Jesus through love.

The Eucharist transforms our souls into Jesus through love (ST III, Q.73, art. 3).

Jesus transforms us into Himself.

And I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me ~ Gal 2:20

For me, to live is Christ ~ Phil 1:21

Don’t mistake your sensible fervour with sanctity.

Abandonment, rightly understood, includes everything.

It is in abandonment that our great desires find their perfect fulfillment.

To live with abandonment is to rediscover a perfect harmony in God.

“Let me do it” – “His Sacred Heart will do everything for me if I let Him. He shall will, He shall love, He shall desire for me and make up for all my faults” ~ St Margaret Mary

When you are going through difficulty and you hear Jesus say, Let me do it, answer Him “O Jesus, I thank You for all things”

Now it is abandonment alone which guides me. I have no other compass. I want nothing but what He wants. It is what He does that I love. ~ St Therese

Practically speaking, abandonment consists of seeing the will of God in all that creatures and events presents to you, to be found in a disposition to ask nothing and to refuse nothing. This doesn’t mean quietism or fatalism.

Abandonment is to see Providence in every moment of my life and thank God for the result. Thank God for failures, plans ruined, successes, everything. Even in our failures Jesus can bring out a greater good than if we never acted at all.

When someone asked little Therese to summarize her little childlike way, she answered, “It is to be disturbed by nothing.”

Make an act of confidence when you realize you are worrying. Perhaps He is sleeping in the boat, but He is there. He is always there. He watches over each one of us “as over the apple of His eye” (Deut 32:10).

Make a distinction between our nature and our will, united to the will of Jesus.

  • My nature says No, my will says Yes.
  • It is a fight which we must take up again and again without ceasing, for our fallen nature always rears up its head.
  • St Francis de Sales says it dies a quarter of an hour after we do!

Just as strength is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12:9), confidence is perfected in worry, humility is perfected in the movements of pride, light is perfected in darkness.

The proud person is not the one who has proud thoughts, but the one who has chosen pride, who has made it a rule of his life, whose avowed goal is not to submit, but to dominate.

You must believe in mercy to the point of believing that you are a joy for Jesus. The life of a Christian is a life of love. Can people love one another without knowing that they are a joy for each other? How many causes of joy for Him there are in us!

Good resolution = I promise you Jesus to worry about nothing consciously, voluntarily, deliberately. As soon as I notice myself worrying, I shall listen to Your gentle voice saying to me, “Let me do it. Am I not here with you, in you?” and I shall say unconditionally, O Jesus I thank You for everything, for You always except that of me.

Abandonment is a practical and actual application of an obsession: the will of God. Preferring nothing else to the will of God. This is where the supernatural indifference of the saints comes from: joy or pain, consolation or dryness, light or darkness, health or sickness, life or death.

Remember that each event in your life brings you Jesus’ will, which is Jesus Himself.

To abandon yourself thus to Jesus is to permit Him to carry out His whole work of love.

If Jesus does not grant our prayers, it is because His plan is more beautiful than ours.

Let Jesus do as He wills. He sees the big picture. We don’t. He is the one who steers the boat. Let us row with all our strength and let Jesus guide us into the port.

The Magnificant which you sing in your disappointment, the “Thank you for everything” which you say in your humiliation, is the most beautiful of all successes, the most fruitful of all victories.

“O Jesus I thank you for everything!”

  • Make this prayer frequently. How rich this little prayer is! Each time you say it, it reaffirms your disposition of love for Him in total abandonment. “Giving thanks always for all things” ~ Eph 5:20

CONFERENCE #5 – GREAT DESIRES, HUMILITY, AND PEACE

Great desires

  • In order to give Jesus love for love, we must be souls of desire. Nothing great ever comes about without great desires.
  • Just as the desires that lie behind great successes in the world lead to so many sacrifices yet only result in temporary fortune, glory, & enjoyment, our desires for heavenly things must be ever stronger because of our eternal reward in heaven. We must renew our holy desires. Tell Jesus that you thirst for him.
  • Jesus thirsts for us. He said “I thirst” & “I have come to cast fire on the earth. And what will I, but that it be kindled” (Luke 12:49).

Humility

  • Along with these great desires, keep a profound, convinced, sincere sense of your weakness and impotence.
  • The gate which is truly narrow, accessible to all, is that of humility. The narrow way, the narrow gate, is for those who become again like little children.
  • The saints learned to rejoice in humility and humiliations, for humility and love of humiliations are of a piece.
  • Humiliations are truly a taste of death because we die to ourselves. But this taste of death is also a taste of divine life because it is in the measure that we die to ourselves that we live in God, that Jesus takes a greater place in us.
  • Think of Jesus’ humiliations when you go through any.
  • If we knew all we gain by humiliations, we would thirst for them.
  • “Let us remain very remote from all that glitters. Let us love our littleness; let us love to feel nothing. Then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come seeking us, however far away we are. He will transform us into flames of love!” ~ Therese
  • Humility is an abyss which attracts torrents of graces, which attracts Jesus Himself into a soul (ex – prodigal son, good thief, woman of Canaan).
  • Instead of asking, “What are people going to think?” when we decide on some action, the humble ask, “What will Jesus think?”
  • Simplicity – A ravishing form of humility is simplicity. Meditate on the simplicity of the Holy Family.
  • Obedience – Jesus’ obedience to His parents & God the Father. What within ourselves is most intimately ours? Our own will – that is the centre of our person. To die to ourselves is to die to what we cling to most: our own will. Only obedience can bring about this crucifixion and this liberation.
  • Jesus will give you this humility in the measure that you desire and ask for it, with confidence, in prayer.
  • Do not confuse your proud nature with being a proud person. It is consent that makes it sin.

Peace

  • What will crown this humility, this confidence, this abandonment which I have preached to you up until now? The peace which Jesus came to bring upon the earth.
  • Peace was Jesus first & last gift to men.
  • The fruit of this peace is supernatural calm, equilibrium of soul (a wise & legitimate optimism). The Devil fishes in troubled waters.
  • Remember that the grace of Jesus is sufficient for you, and that it will never be lacking.
  • The first way to work for peace in the world is to let Jesus establish it in our souls.

CONFERENCE 6  —  FRATERNAL CHARITY

  • It is said that St. John, at the end of his life, repeated a single teaching continually: “Love one another!”
  • Just as strength is made perfect in weakness, charity is made perfect in temptations against charity.
  • We are, without intending it, excellent instruments of humiliation and mortification for each other.
  • Abandonment rests above all on obedience, but it must go further to accept everything from those around you.
  • Ask in your prayers to see the beauty of the souls which surround you.
  • Faults are ugly. Why not look at the virtues which are beautiful? Apply yourself to see things with the eyes of Jesus, as He sees them, to loving what He loves.
  • As much as you can, ascribe good intentions to your neighbour

“When I want to increase in myself my love of neighbour, especially when the Devil tries to put before the eyes of my soul the faults of this or that sister who is less appealing to me, I hasten to seek our her virtues, her good desires. I tell myself that if I have seen her fall one time, she may well have undergone a great many victories that she hides through humility, and that even what appears as a fault to me could very well be an act of virtue because of the intention. Ah, I understand now that perfect charity consists of enduring the faults of others, of not being at all astonished at their weaknesses, of being edified by the smallest acts of virtue which one sees them practice” ~ St. Therese

To pardon an injustice received is to heal the wound in your own heart ~ St Vincent de Paul

  • We must forget ourselves. A person who forgets himself brings joy to those around him.
  • It is just and it is a joy to think about the goodness in our neighbour.

We must treat them, even the most imperfect, with precautions like those that are taken for bodily ills. Oh, very often people do not think about that; they wound themselves by inattentiveness, by tactlessness, although what they need is for us to care for them and comfort them with all our power. Yes, I feel that I must have as much compassion for the spiritual infirmities of my sisters as they have for my physical infirmities” ~ St Therese on her sick bed speaking of her compassion for suffering souls.

  • Forgive a thousand times, as Jesus forgives you a hundred thousand times.
  • We must make a distinction between our nature and our will borne by grace, between what we feel and what we will.
  • Know that when we ask Jesus with confidence to repair not only the evil we have done in ourselves, but also the evil we have done around us, he will do it. Our Saviour makes things right. Know this to have peace of soul.
  • Charity is a unity: love of God and love of neighbour are inseparable.
  • “Charity covers a multitude of sins” ~ 1 Peter 4:8
  • Have you meditated on the Last Judgment, which will be based entirely on the virtue of charity? (Mt 25:34-40)
  • Poverty, austerity, fasting, prayer, and the gift of miracles, without love of our brothers, all are pure illusions.
  • There is no true love of neighbour without beginning by loving Jesus; but the love of Jesus is accomplished, perfected, and consummated in the love of neighbour.
  • Jesus, meek and humble of heart, give me Your Heart to love my neighbour.
  • Have no doubt that it is in the degree to which you change yourself that everything around you will change. Change yourself by letting Jesus transform you into Himself by love.
  • Abandonment marvelously opens you up to God’s work.

CONFERENCE 8 – THE CROSS

In the apostolate, the money to buy souls is suffering, accepted with love.

Suppress the Cross in your life, and everything crumbles.

Never look at the Cross without Jesus.

What merits is there in choosing Jesus if we only have to follow Him on a path of roses? How would we know whether it was He or the roses on the pathway which we were following? He wants to be loved for Himself, not for His gifts.

When people love one another, they have the same tastes – and Jesus wants us to share with Him His taste for the Cross.

Suffering helps us to detach ourselves from earth, to look higher, to remember that earth is a place of passage.

The Cross is a means for Jesus to lead back to Himself those who do not love Him, to bring closer those who do not love Him enough, and to consummate in Himself those who do love Him.

We always see the Cross as reparation, but not enough as preparation.

It is impossible to fulfill our Christian mission on earth without suffering. It seems that the greater the missions are, the more the crosses are, too, and the heavier they are.

Must we ask for the Cross? No. must we look for it? No again. Live the doctrine of abandonment. Accept with thanksgiving everything that happens to you. Say continually, “O Jesus, I thank You for everything.”

  • “Oh, I would never wish to ask the good Lord for greater sufferings, for I am too little. They would become my own sufferings; I would be forced to endure them alone, and I have never been able to do anything all alone” ~ St Therese
  • “We would like to suffer generously. We would like never to fall – what an illusion!” ~ St Therese

Compassion – we must always begin with compassion when we speak to those who are suffering physically or morally.

CONFERENCE 9 – THE EUCHARIST

Jesus and all the treasures of Heaven are ours on the altar. I have told you, we must make the merits of Jesus our own. Where do you find them? On the altar of the Mass, where you receive not only grace, but the Author of grace.” Every time the memorial of this Sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our Redemption is accomplished” (Secret of the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, Roman Missal).

Jesus comes in the Eucharist in order to transform us into Himself. He will more than a union, more than a fusion; He will the unity of love: to be one with us. “The partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ does nothing other than to cause us to be transformed into that which we consume” ~ St. Leo the Great

“Be you therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). But how? By eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Him who alone is perfect as the Father and who transforms us into Himself.

* Receive Communion not only for yourself, in order to have this immense grace, but for Jesus, in order to respond to His desire to come down into you, to give Him the joy of descending into your heart, which is a heaven for Him.

If you only knew how Jesus hungers for you, how He burns with desire to come into your heart, how impatient He is to come down to you, bridging all distance between you and Him! The day you miss a Communion is a great disappointment for Him.

Live in a state of spiritual communion.

Let you Mass be the center of your day. Everything must flow for you from your daily Mass, and everything must culminate in it. Your day, because you will have willed it, must be a thanksgiving for the Mass you have attended and a preparation for the Mass you will attend the next day.

The model & source of abandonment is Jesus in the Eucharist.

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love… “Receive Communion often, very often…there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing…” “The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us – that is all He asks.” ~ St Therese

CONFERENCE 10 – JESUS, MARY, AND THE SAINTS

Love always says the same things, yet never repeats itself.

How necessary it is that Jesus be substituted for us. It is He who must do what we cannot do.

Be like St. John and say “It is the Lord!” in your daily life, whether a joy or cross comes.

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