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Ave Maria Mediations  

One more point, so that we may have a perfectly clear idea of Saint Therese’s self-denial. Generally speaking we have a too material, too external idea of self-denial; we almost always picture self-denial under the form of privation, as the sacrifice of something material, or again as some external mortification. And so we tire ourselves out looking for something to give up instead of denying ourselves always and in everything.   

Self-denial is primarily and often solely something interior and spiritual; it is in no way synonymous with mortification, with privation. Even when there is no mortification, there ought always to be self-denial. Self-­denial is simply the disposition of the soul to live for self in nothing, a sincere and constant disposition, a fixed determination to turn the soul from its natural tendency to make self the centre of its life, a fixed determination not to think of self, to put self on one side. 

Saint Therese’s self-denial was often of this kind, wholly interior; the not doing something, the repressing of a natural eagerness, of a too vehement desire, of over-curiosity, of a feeling of antipathy, of feelings of complacency or gratification. Outwardly these little sacrifices were often imperceptible. Even when expressed by an exterior and material sacrifice, it was in the interior turning away from self, the interior turning to God, that they primarily consisted. The turning of the heart to God, and so, away from self: that is self-­denial.

If this interior movement is sincere, the exterior and material detachment will correspond to it when the occasion arises, but the exterior part is far from being the whole, the essential part of it. The essential part is the glance of the heart turned, not to self, but to God.

We can now see why Therese’s care not to miss any opportunity of little sacrifices, did not result, with her, in preoccupation or anxiety, constraint or scrupulosity, no more than did her desire to please God her Father in all things. Joyfully she goes on her way borne up by her all-absorbing desire. The very sincerity, the integrity of her desire to please God, tells her when- in this or that- there would be a slight self-satisfaction, and that she can please God by sacrificing it to Him. She makes her little sacrifice and passes on. A moment later a fresh opportunity comes, and she makes another and she goes on, freely, in simplicity. She is sincere in her desire to do everything to please God. That is all.

Her little sacrifices-of which she misses no opportunity-are but the spontaneous fruit of her ever watchful desire to love. There is no anxiety, no uneasiness, no narrowness, no restless preoccupation with self, no constraint of the heart, on the contrary, the heart is enlarged, the soul expands, there is joy; the joy of giving which is one with the joy of loving.

Pere Liagre C.S.Sp.

Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Author Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Our Lady found this unworthy lukewarm person and obtained for her the grace to enter the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. May this person spend all eternity in showing her gratitude.

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