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Quotes from Therese

Tomorrow Anne and I will meet to talk about Story of a Soul. While reading I marked various pages where certain quotes or themes stood out for me (the first of which I discussed in this post). Here are some others:

“I’ve been saved from that. I’ve found nothing but bitterness where stronger souls have found happiness and yet remained properly detached. So it’s no merit on my part that I never became entangled by love of creatures; I was saved only by the great mercy of God” (Pg 56 Chapter 4).

Whereas previously I found a similarity between Haidt’s and Therese’s views in regard to religion’s positive effects on a person’s happiness, This quote from Story seems to lie in direct opposition to some of Haidt’s other views (and frankly some of my own). Here Therese asserts that religion has spared her the bitterness of meaningful relationships on earth. In Hypothesis, one of Haidt’s main themes is the extreme importance of relationships, whether between a mother and child, lovers, or friends. No wonder Therese spent her life longing so ardently for death; she really didn’t have much to live for.

On page 62, Therese relays the story of her last Christmas as a child. She pretended to be happy in spite of her own feelings so that her family would be happy. This in turn caused her to actually become happy.

This is, I think, the first place where Therese begins her theme of charity. Here she does not explicitly mention the term but later in her narrative it becomes a major part of her story. Sacrificing one’s own happiness for others’ happiness is also something that Haidt touches on in Hypothesis. Starting on page 121 she talks a great deal about gaining the grace of charity. An especially interesting account involves doing all she can to put aside her dislike for a certain nun so that that nun might not suffer (this account was actually mentioned in The Happiness Project and Rubin’s discussion of Therese’s charity is what made me what to read her autobiography).

“I realized very clearly that happiness has nothing to do with the material things which surround us; it dwells in the very depths of the soul” (Pg 86 Chapter 6).

Here Therese also pulls in another of Haidt’s themes: adaptivity. She writes of being happy no matter what her surroundings are due to her faith in God. Haidt would say it is because humans are very adaptable creatures.

(From Anne:) So, we met and had that conversation. And I was very dismissive of Therese–for all the reasons I mention below: I really did not understand her desire for martyrdom. But then I had the idea of inviting into our discussion a colleague and good friend, who is a monastic woman committed to a life of prayer –and the story she told was a much more compelling one than the one I’d come up with while reading Therese.  I think I am now beginning to understand the conception of emptying oneself out, of stripping everything away, in order to make space to be filled by God. This concept fits, for me, w/ the Quaker concept of simplicity: if you fill your life w/ lots of stuff, you won’t have time for the important things. That’s what Therese knew.
I also think that I now have some understanding of Therese’s compulsion to suffer, as a means of identifying with her husband, Christ, on the cross: of sharing that experience, thus becoming one with him, but also thus making herself open for the transformation that is resurrection.

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  1. Jeanine Lehnortt says

    Hi, Does your site have a Twitter that I can follow? let me know if you do! Many thanks.

  2. Alexandra Funk says

    We don’t have a twitter. Sorry!