Saturday, September 30, 2006

September with St. Therese - September 30 - The Day of Her Death

Welcome to our series tracing the last month of St. Therese's life on this earth which was September 1897. It's called September with St. Therese and I hope you will visit every day for an inspirational message about our dear little saint.

We will bring you excerpts from Her Last Conversations and Novissima Verba which follow her struggle the last few months of her life. On days for which there are no specific quotes, I will select a passage from one of her writings.

"In the morning I watched beside her during Mass. She did not utter a word; she was exhausted, and breathing with great difficulty. Her sufferings, so I divined, were altogether inexpressible. At one moment she joined her hands and, regarding the statue of the Blessed Virgin placed so as to face her bed, said:"
'Oh! how fervently I have prayed to her! But it is all pure agony, without any admixture of consolation'.

"Throughout the day she lay there in torment without one moment's respite. All her strength seemed spent, and yet to our great surprise, she was able to move, to sit up in her bed. She said:"
'See, mother, what strength I have today. No, I am not going to die yet. Perhaps months await me yet. I do not believe it is death, but more suffering for me. And tomorrow it will be worse! Ah, well so much the better!'

'Oh, my God...I love him, the good God!...'
'Oh, my good Holy Virgin, come to my aid...'
'If this is the agony, what then will death be like?'

'Oh, my mother, I assure you that the chalice is full to overflowing today...But God is not going to abandon me...He has never abandoned me!'

'Yes, my God do all you will, but have mercy upon me!'
'My little sisters, my little sisters, pray for me!'
'My God, my God, you are so good! Oh, yes, you are so good! I know it.'

"Towards three o'clock in the afternoon she crossed her hands, and the Mother Prioress placed upon her knees a picture of our Lady of Mount Carmel. She regarded it for an instant, and said to Mother Prioress:"
'Oh, my mother, present me very soon to the Blessed Virgin. Prepare me to die well.'
"The Mother Prioress, answering, told her she had always understood and practised humility, and therefore her preparation had been made already. She reflected for a moment, and then humbly pronounced these words:"
'Yes, it seems to me that I have never sought anything but the truth...Yes, I have understood humility of heart.'
"She repeated once more:"
'All that I have written about my desire for suffering, oh! yes, it is quite true!'
"And with firm assurance:"
'I do not repent of having delivered myself up to Love.'

"From that moment it seemed to be no longer herself that suffered. Many a time, as I watched beside her, I thought of martyrs delivered into the hands of the executioners, yet animated by a power divine. She repeated again with a fervor:"
'Oh! no, I do not repent of having delivered myself up to Love; quite the contrary!'

"A little later on she said:"
'I would never have believed it possible to suffer so much! Never! never! I can only explain it by the ardent desire I have to save souls.'

"Then, with anguish:"
'I cannot breathe, I cannot die...'
"But with resignation:"
'I am very willing to suffer more!'

'All my smallest desires have been realized...Then the greatest of all, to die of Love, must be realized also...'

"Toward five o'clock in the evening I was watching alone, when suddenly her face changed; her agony had begun. The Community came in haste to the Infirmary. She greeted all the Sisters with a sweet smile. She held her crucifix firmly in her hands, and kept her eyes fixed upon it. For more than two hours the terrible death rattle tore her chest. Her features were congested, her hands purple, her feet were icy cold, and she trembled in every limb. She death sweat stood out in great drops on her forehead and coursed down her face. The ever-increasing oppression made her utter feeble involuntary cries in her efforts to breathe. Thinking to moisten her parched lips, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Facel placed a small particle of ice upon them. No one could ever forget the look of heavenly sweetness with which our little saint regarded "Celine" at that moment. It was like a sublime encouragement, a supreme adieu."

"At six o'clock the Angelus sounded, and she raised her eyes pleadingly towards the statue of the Blessed Virgin. At a few moments after seven o'clock, thinking that the end was yet some way off, Mother Prioress dismissed the assembled Community. She signed and said:"
'My mother, is it not yet the agony? Am I not yet going to die?'
"Yes, my child, it is the agony; but perhaps the good God wills to prolong it for some hours. She answered courageously:"
'Ah, well!...So be it; so be it!...Oh, I do not wish to suffer less.'
"Then, looking at her crucifix:"
'Oh!...I love him!...My God!...I love thee!'

"Scarcely had she uttered these words when she gently fell back, her head inclined a little to the right. We thought that all was over, and our mother had the Infirmary bell sounded in haste to call the Community. 'Open all the doors,' she exclaimed (there were three doors in the apartment). Those words seemed to have a singularly solemn significance at such a moment, and I thought that in heaven our Lord was repeating the same words to his angels. The sisters came and knelt around the bed, and were witnesses of that last ecstacy. The face of our saint assumed again the lily-like tint which it had possessed when she was in full health; her eyes remained fixed on high, irradiated and expressing such happiness as surpassed all her desires.
She made certain movements with her head, as if at intervals she was divinely wounded by the shafts of love. After that ecstacy, which lasted for the space of a Credo, she closed her eyes and breathed her last sigh. That was twenty minutes past seven o'clock. Our holy little sister preserved in death an ineffable smile and a ravishing beauty. She held her crucifix so firmly that it was by no means easy to detach it from her hands, to prepare her for her burial. Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart and myself fulfilled that office, together with Sister Aimee of Jesus, the venerable Infirmarian, and we remarked then how very young she appeared, so that we should not have thought her more than twelve or thirteen years old. Later, on the contrary, when her body was exposed in the choir, her countenance assumed a very imposing expression. Her members remained quite supple until her entombment on October 4, 1897...Moreover, throughout the course of her sickness our little saint had affirmed that an unclouded sky should mark the moment of her going forth to God. And so it befell, for the day of September 30 had been overcast and rainy, but towards seven o'clock the clouds all dispersed with surprising rapidity, and soon from a perfectly clear sky the stars appeared, scintillating with that brillancy that always follows rain." Excerpted from Novissima Verba and Her Last Conversations.

St. Therese, open our hearts to accept the sufferings that Jesus sends us. Teach us your little way and help us to see the graces that can come from joining our sufferings to the passion of Jesus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Cynthia.
I was born on the 54th anniversary of the death of the Little Flower. The Church had to give her October 1 for a day of memorial, since St. Jerome already had September 30.