Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love shows how St. Therese ministered, through prayer and correspondence to an aimless young priest unsure of his vocation and unstable in his devotion. Maurice Belliere wrote to Therese's Mother Prioress to ask that a nun pray for him, Therese was assigned to the task, and their 21 letters illustrate the young woman's extraordinary ability to love. She wasn't deeply familiar with Maurice, and she didn't agree with him on lots of things, but she was naturally inclined to have faith in him--a necessary aspect of love, and one that deserves attention.
December 26, 1896
I would have liked it if I could have answered you sooner, but the rule of Carmel doesn’t allow us either to write or to receive letters during Advent. However, by way of exception, our Reverend Mother let me read your letter, because she knew that you needed to be specially sustained by prayer. I assure you, Monsieur l’Abbé, that I am doing the very best I can to get you the graces you need. These graces will certainly be given you, because Our Lord never asks us for sacrifices that are beyond our strength. It is true that sometimes this divine Savior makes us taste all the bitterness of the chalice which He presents to our soul. When He asks the sacrifice of all that is most dear in this world it is impossible, apart from a very special grace, not to cry out as He did Himself in the Garden of His agony: “Father, let this chalice pass from me … nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”
It is most consoling to remember that Jesus, the Strong God, experienced our weakness, that He trembled at the sight of His own bitter chalice, the very one which He had once so ardently desired to drink. Monsieur l’Abbé, your lot is truly beautiful, since Our Lord chose it for Himself and first put His own lips to the cup which He now holds up to yours. A Saint has said: “The greatest honor that God can pay to anyone is not to give him much but to ask much from him!” Jesus, then, is treating you in a privileged way. He wants you to begin your mission already and to save souls through suffering. Isn’t it by suffering and dying that He Himself redeemed the world? I know that you aspire to the joy of laying down your life for the divine Master, but martyrdom of the heart is no less fruitful than that of bloodshed, and from now on this martyrdom is yours; so I have good reason to say that your lot is a beautiful one and that it is worthy of an apostle of Christ.
Monsieur l’Abbé, you come seeking consolation from the one whom Jesus has given you for a sister, and you have every right to do so. Since our Reverend Mother allows me to write you, I would like to carry out the pleasant mission she has given me, but I feel that the surest means of achieving my purpose is through prayer and suffering. Let us work together for the salvation of souls. We have only the one day of this life to save them and thus to give Our Lord some proof of our love. The tomorrow of this day will be eternity, when Jesus will reward you with the hundredfold of those sweet and lawful joys which you are giving up for Him. He recognizes the extent of your sacrifice. He knows that the suffering of those who are dear to you adds to your own suffering. But He too suffered this martyrdom. To save souls He too left His Mother; and He looked down at the Immaculate Virgin standing at the foot of the Cross, with a with a sword of sorrow piercing her heart.
I also hope that our Divine Savior will console your dear Mother, and I urgently ask Him to do so. Ah! If the divine Master were to let those you are leaving for love of Him know the glory He has in store for you, and the host of souls who will form your cortege in heaven, they would already be rewarded for the great sacrifice your going away is going to cause them.
Our Mother is still not well. However for some days now she is a bit better. I hope that the divine Child Jesus will give her the strength to carry on for His glory. This beloved Mother sends you a picture of St. Francis of Assisi, who will teach you how to find joy in the midst of life’s trials and struggles. I hope, Monsieur l’Abbé, that you will continue to pray for me, who am no angel as you seem to think, but a poor little Carmelite who is very imperfect—yet who in spite of her poverty wants, like yourself, to work for the glory of God.
Let us stay united in prayer and suffering close to the crib of Jesus.
Your unworthy little sister,
Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face