In the photo above, Saint Therese is shown in costume portraying the great French saint, Joan of Arc. Therese was a member of the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux at the time, and she not only starred as the great Saint Joan but wrote the play herself.
Saint Joan, the “Maid of Orleans”, was criticized for many things during her lifetime. Joan wore men’s clothes while leading the French army; though an unmarried woman, she lived among soldiers; she claimed to hear voices (of saints) who told her to lead the war against the English. While many complained about her failure to follow contemporary customs for Frenchwomen, the charge that Joan was a witch was the one that finally stuck. When captured, Joan was subjected to a trial that was clearly biased against her, and she was unsurprisingly condemned. It was clearly an unjust accusation, but Joan of Arc bore it like a saint.
Therese’s experience of unjust treatment were far less dramatic but are still very instructive for us because they are so utterly ordinary.
Therese was a very intelligent girl and also very sensitive due to the loss of her mother. Because of her intelligence, she was promoted to study with older girls, but the bullying she endured ultimately led her family to homeschool her. When Therese entered the Carmelite monastery, two of her older sisters were already professed nuns there, which caused resentment among some of the nuns, who expected Therese to think she would get special favors because of her blood relationship. For example, on one occasion, Therese was ordered by her superior to take a message to one of her older sisters. When she arrived at her sister’s door, another nun berated her and accused her of seeking special privileges to see her sister. Therese recognized that anything she said would be interpreted wrongly, so she said nothing. She accepted the correction—for something she hadn’t done wrong—and meekly returned to her duties, without complaint.
Although there is a world of difference between being burned at the stake and keeping your mouth shut when someone unjustly criticizes you, the latter is the sort of temptation every Christian could face any day of the week. Try it today, and see if you are up to Saint Therese’s level of holiness yet.
Saint Therese, show me how to accept criticism from others with charity.