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Revisting Story of a Soul

Not only do I have a new mission for the blog, but one of the major issues in my life that was causing me so much stress and unhappiness has resolved itself. Although it did not come to the resolution that I hoped for and I am still very sad, it does feel better to be out of limbo. Onto my new blog mission: before I return to school after my spring break I intend to write a blog post for every book we have read so far. In each of these posts I will list the themes/things that stuck out to me the most and if I feel inspired I might also write a bit about why that is.

I’m going to begin with Story of a Soul.

(1)Suffering
“I should suffer terribly if I ever had to leave here. My heart is far from hard, and it is because it can suffer so much that I want to offer to Jesus all it is able to endure…I dream of a convent where I should be unknown and forced to endure the pain of exile…I know I would not be disappointed, for the slightest pleasure is a surprise when one expects nothing but suffering. And suffering itself becomes the greatest of all joys when one seeks it like a precious treasure” (121).

Therese’s longing for suffering (of all kinds) was initially very shocking to me. She wanted to take in all the suffering of the world and felt that doing so would make her happier. At first glance this seems completely backwards. Who would want to volunteer for more suffering than they already have to endure? Actually, there is at least one simple answer to this question (and I’m sure you could think of more if you tried): mothers. It is often said that a mother would do almost anything to take away suffering from her child.

Perhaps what is even more striking about this theme of suffering is that every single other book whether secular or religious, has agreed with Therese about the benefits of experiencing suffering. I’m hoping that this frequent stream of advice about the positives of suffering will help me to make it through my own in both the present and the future.

(2)Charity
“When I act and think with charity, I feel it is Jesus who works within me. The closer I am united with him the more I love all the other dwellers of Carmel. If I want this love to grow deeper and the devil tries to show me the faults of a sister, I hasten to think of all her virtues and of how good her intentions are. I tell myself that though I have seen her commit a sin, she may very well  have won many spiritual victories of which I know nothing because of her humility. What seems a fault to me may very well be an act of virtue because of the intention behind it” (123).

Feeling hate or ill will towards other (no matter how deserving it may seem) only serves to harm you more. This is a tenet I have always done my best to live by and generally I think I am fairly successful at following it (of course like everyone, there are exceptions…see this post). But I also recognize that I am lucky in this respect; I do not get angry by nature. I am just not an angry person. Therese also speaks of the more traditional forms of charity: giving time and resources. It is universally acknowledged that charity of all kinds can only increase a person’s happiness.

(3)Distance in Relationships
I wrote about Therese’s feelings on this here, but since that post I have read Buddhist philosophy that I feel strikes middle ground between Haidt and Therese. It is important to have close relationships, they are what make life most meaningful in many cases, but being guarded can protect you from unnecessary hurt. It is also important not to get so wrapped up in your relationships that you forget about yourself: your goals, your spiritual journey.

Therese claims she “never became entangled by a love of creatures,” but she still had many meaningful earthly relationships: her father, her sisters, her mother superior. Like she says, it is important to remain properly detached. It is important to remember to focus on your own happiness too.

Posted in Alexandra Funk.

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