- Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux (1873-1897). Biographie
In the introduction the author tells us that his work will be based on authentic documents, and his method will be chronological. The enormous amount of available documentation has made the publication of this volume possible. The average reader would not have the time to seek out and read all the materials that are now accessible. Guy Gaucher has put this information at the disposal of the interested reader. His work is based on the eight volumes of the Nouvelle Edition du Centenaire and the Archives de famille published in the revue Vie thérèsienne.
The author has made every effort to keep his work faithful to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, as befitting someone who said that we must not say unlikely things concerning the lives of the saints. Our reflection and devotion should be based on facts, not on conjecture. Gaucher's impressive work follows this directive. His work will enable the reader to better appreciate all Thérèse's surroundings: her family, her Carmel, and the Church of her time. Her writings and words will become more understandable in the light given by this biography.
The author deals with the following periods and events in the life of Thérèse: the Martin family in Alençon (1858-77); the move from Alençon to Lisieux (1877-81); Thérèse's experience as a student at the Benedictine Abbey School (1881-86); her complete conversion during Christmas 1886 (Ms A, 45r); the pilgrimage to Rome, 1887 (Ms A, 55v); the solitude of Carmel (1888-97); and her move to the infirmary (July 8-September 30, 1897). Gaucher has included a posthumous history and a plan of the Lisieux Carmel in 1897. There also is a general chronology, a glossary of religious terms, the bibliographical sources, and the genealogy of the Martin and Guerin families.
The longest chapter is that concerning Thérèse's life in Carmel. The author begins with her postulancy and describes Carmel as it existed at the time. Her experience in the novitiate and her life as a professed nun are all included. Gaucher discusses in chronological order the significant amount of writing produced by Thérèse during her short life: the Manuscripts, the Pious Recreations, the poetry, and the letters.
Of particular note is the description of Thérèse's "Little Way." She always wanted to be a saint. Such an ideal seemed impossible to her, yet she realized that God would not inspire desires that could not be fulfilled. Basing her philosophy [End Page 834] on Proverbs 9:4 and Isaiah 66, she accepted that she must remain little; only then could the arms of Jesus lift her up. The author provides helpful background material to enable the reader to appreciate her remarkable contribution to spirituality.
Thérèse and others in her time suffered from a certain atmosphere where fear of God was all pervasive, reinforced by the frightening sermons of some of the clergy and the widespread Jansenism of the period. Given this atmosphere, Thérèse's "Little Way" and her "Offering to Merciful Love" are quite extraordinary.
In conclusion, this book is a welcome addition to the Theresian literature. It is full of important, detailed information and accurately relates the background, the life, and the death of the Little Flower to those who would want to know her better.