Every human being has the experience of illness or injury from time to time, some of us more often than others. Whether it’s life-threatening or not, being sick forces us to do many things we don’t want to do and stop doing many things that we do want to do.
Saint Therese recognized that she had tuberculosis, an infectious disease which was terminal at the time, when she was only twenty-three years old. She spent the last year of her life growing sicker and weaker, with no hope of recovery. Though she had dreamed of becoming a missionary when she was younger, she could only pray for missionaries now. Though she had served her monastery as novice mistress before, now she had to lie in bed and patiently accept medical treatments. Even breathing became difficult for her.
On a deeper level, she was also spiritually tempted. The exhaustion caused by her medical condition also commonly causes depression, and Therese, who had had such a deep prayer life and joyful sense of God’s presence, found herself tempted by despairing thoughts and questions about God’s very existence. In her autobiography, she describes these dark temptations, but her example also shows that temptations are not only not sinful, but can be great opportunities to grow in faith. Even when her prayer life and physical life had become very dark and lonely, Therese of Lisieux continued to trust in God and remind herself of His goodness and care for her.
Saint Therese, remind me of God’s love for me when I suffer from poor health or temptations.