THE SECOND DAY (Chapter 2)
The Little Flower and the Contemplative Ideal
Two women were so very dear to the heart of our Saviour that,
when He was wearied with the neglect and hatred of the
Pharisees, he went down to Bethany to find rest and new strength
in their home. One of them, Martha, served Him busily; the
other, Mary, who chose the better part, sat quietly at His feet,
talked to Him, listened to Him, and loved Him with all the
tenderness of her strong, devoted nature.
Dull-witted mankind has always regarded Mary with puzzled brow.
Why should Christ say that she had chosen the better part when
Martha was the one who tired herself out preparing His meals,
mending His garments, and making the house more attractive for
With the same puzzled wrinkle on its brow, mankind looks at the
contemplative nun who has chosen Mary as her model. Even an
unbeliever can understand that a teaching sister or a nursing
nun does definite good for the world. He may almost venerate the
Sister of Charity who mothers against her unselfish heart the
weakness of little children and the misery of the old.
But he looks at the contemplative, the Carmelite or the Poor
Clare, and shrugs his shoulders hopelessly over this waste of
life. He can hardly be expected to understand the contemplative,
who is simply carrying on the role of Mary, sitting at the feet
of Christ, talking to Him, listening to Him, and loving Him with
all her heart.
But Catholics are not quite reasonable if they are enthusiastic
about the Little Flower, and yet utterly fail to understand the
meaning of the life which she longed for so eagerly that when
she was only fifteen she begged the Pope to permit her to
embrace it. If the life of a contemplative is not logical, then
the Catholic Church is not logical and a large part of Christ's
teaching is words without meaning.
The contemplative life is, as a matter of fact, as logical as
prayer or penance or love of God, all of which Christ our
Saviour taught by insistent precept and by repeated example.
Without prayer we cannot hope for God's help or forgiveness.
Penance is essential for everlasting life. "Unless you do
penance," Christ said, "you shall all likewise perish." The
greatest of the commandments is the command to love God with our
whole heart and soul.
Yet, because the men of His time neither prayed nor did penance
for their sins, Christ prayed through the long hours of the
night and offered Himself as a victim for the sake of those who
would not atone for their crimes against God. "Father, forgive
them," He cried at the very moment when He was offering His
anguish upon the cross to save the world from itself.
His prayer was for those who would not pray; His sufferings were
for those who refused to do penance.
Time has not so greatly altered the attitude of mankind toward
prayer and penance. The sinner dances gaily down the path of sin
with sweet words for everyone, but never a prayer to the God he
offends. The unbeliever regards the idea of prayer with amused
incredulity. God, if there be a God, has done nothing that he
considers worthy of either gratitude or praise.
Even the Catholic sometimes brings to prayer a half-hearted
indifference that is priced into vitality only by some terrible
fear or gripping necessity. And penance? The mountain of sin
rises higher every day. men sin and laugh in the face of the God
Christ is crucified again and again by unthinking executioners
who turn away from the cross they have planted to seek their
loves, their lusts, and their injustices.
Even the faithful soul knows in his heart that between the debt
of sin which he has piled up and the penance by which he has
tried to wipe it out there is no proportion. He has attempted to
dip up a sea of guilt with a child's bucket.
So over mankind the just and avenging hand of God hangs ready to
strike. Mankind deserves a devastating blow, and for the most
part does nothing to stay it.
At any moment it must fall with thundering crash and break this
unworthy, disloyal creation into ruined bits. But not while
young women look up to the divine Victim on the cross and ask to
undertake a share of His atonement for sinners. Freely and
eagerly they mount the cross of their Carmel, and, lifting their
eyes like the Victim on Calvary, cry with his very words and
meaning, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Penance? It is the routine of their life. Sleep broken for
prayer at the midnight hour and taken upon rough planks covered
with a coarse blanket; an almost continuous fast, with a
complete abstinence from meat or luxuries; cruel pain inflicted
upon their delicate bodies with a love that remembers the
scourging at the pillar and the crowning with thorns; a complete
separation from the world behind the bars of a voluntary
prison-all this; not for their own sins, but to atone for the
sins of those who sin and then run heedlessly on their way.
Prayer? Almost continuous. At midnight, when the world sleeps or
dances its way into the dawn, they rise to beg God to watch over
His people. At dawn, before men start their day of labour, they
beg God to bless and protect mankind.
Throughout the day, from the chapel of the Carmel angels of
prayer are sent forth to guard a busy and sinful world. And when
night falls, the nuns kneel again on the cold floor and beg God
to forgive His thoughtless children for the crimes that have
stained the day and merited new punishment from His justice.
Always these brave and tender women are trying to make up to God
for the lovelessness of His children. They love Him for the
millions who actually hate Him, and they offer Him their hearts
for the countless hearts that are given so freely to Satan.
Because of them God withholds His anger, showers new blessings
on the human race, gives grace to sinners who so little deserve
it, and crowns with fuller success the work of His priests.
Between the anger of His Father threatening to strike and His
sinful brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus flung His body. The
blow fell upon Him and He took it gladly, while He prayed that
they might be forgiven. In exactly that spirit the contemplative
nun throws her pure and delicate body between the justly angry
God and sinful humanity.
The blows of voluntary penance which she inflicts upon herself,
joined to the unceasing prayers which she pours out for sinners,
save the world from the sword that would avenge God's injured
To the task of loving Christ as Mary loved Him, in Bethany and
to the heroic sacrifice of flinging her body between God and
sinners the Little Flower gave herself wholeheartedly.
The crying shame is that we are willing to allow a young woman
to take the blows that we deserve and that we supinely trust to
her prayers to save us from the punishment which we know we have
The Novena Prayers for Day 2
Three Hail Marys in honour of the Little Flower for the
intention of the novena.
Let us pray:
St Therese, beautiful flower that bloomed in the garden of
Carmel, we thank thee for the love of God, and of thy fellow
men, which led thee to embrace a life of unceasing prayer and
penance. We know the graces thou has obtained for us and for the
careless world. In consequence we know how deep a debt of
gratitude we owe thee. But, we beseech thee, now that thou are
safe with God and a blessed saint in his heavenly court, do not
forget us for whom thou didst offer thy life, with its prayers
and penance, while on earth. Watch over us in our needs. Beg
grace for us from the merciful hand of God.
The sinful world still needs thy prayers and thy intercession,
and God will grant thy requests because of the life of love and
penance which thou didst so freely give Him as a nun. Take under
thy protection careless sinners and beg for them the grace of
repentance. And watch over us that we may never incur the wrath
of God. Protect, too, we pray, those whom we love and for whom we are
making this novena.
Obtain for the special favours we are asking during this novena.
(Here pause and silently mention the special graces or blessings
you are seeking though the novena.)
V. We fly to thy protection and intercession, O Little Flower
R. That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
O Lord Who hast said, "Unless you become as little children you
shall not enter the kingdom of heaven," grant us, we beseech
Thee, so to follow the footsteps of the virgin St. Therese in
humility and simplicity of heart that we may obtain the rewards
of eternity. Who livest and reignest world with end. Amen.
End of Chapter 2