To Be Love


St Theresa of the Child Jesus
St Theresa of the Child Jesus

A reading from the autobiography of St Teresa of the Child Jesus

To be love, deep in the heart of the Church

I was still being tormented by this question of unfulfilled longings for martyrdom and it was a distraction in my prayer, when I decided to consult Saint Paul’s epistles in the hope of getting an answer. It was the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of First Corinthians that claimed my attention. The first of these told me that we can’t all of us be apostles, all of us be prophets, all of us doctors, and so on; the Church is composed of members which differ in their use; the eye is one thing and the hand is another. It was a clear enough answer, but it didn’t satisfy my aspirations, didn’t set my heart at rest. Reading on to the end of the chapter, I met this comforting phrase: ‘Prize the best gifts of heaven. Meanwhile, I can show you a way which is better than any other.’

What was it? The apostle goes on to explain that all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love, are absolutely nothing; charity is the best way of all, because it leads straight to God. Now I was at peace; when Saint Paul was talking about the different members of the mystical body I couldn’t recognize myself in any of them; or rather I could recognize myself in all of them. But charity—that was the key to my vocation. If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a heart, and a heart burning with love. And I realized that this love was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function the apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all others; it’s a universe of its own, comprising all time and space—it’s eternal. Beside myself with joy, I cried out: ‘Jesus, my love! I’ve found my vocation, and my vocation is love.’ I had discovered where it is that I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church; that’s to be everything at once—my dream wasn’t a dream after all.