The Most Insightful St. Therese of Lisieux Quotes on Death
Death, one word when uttered can prompt thoughts of fear, gloom, doubt, and unease. As Catholics how should we react when we hear this word? Should we cower in fear or is there perhaps another response? We can begin looking for the answers by turning to St. Therese. Her thoughts found in A Story of a Soul provide powerful insights about death. Here are 10 thought-provoking and insightful St. Therese of Lisieux quotes on death.
1. “If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”
Death entered the world with sin--we were not meant to die before the fall. It is unnatural and frightening. Dwelling on death--focusing on a future time when we will no longer be living--can move us to cling too tightly to life. This is how we miss the opportunities for grace and growth presented to us every moment. We can choose to live now in deeper joy, love, peace, and generosity or, figuratively, to die now and live a lifeless life. Do not be preoccupied with the future and the unknown.
2. “During this prayer, I would begin thinking that the day of rest was coming to an end, that the morrow would bring with it the necessity of beginning life over again, we would have to go back to work, learning lessons, etc., and my heart felt the exile of this earth. I longed for the everlasting repose of heaven, that never-ending Sunday of the Fatherland!”
Even as a young child St. Therese longed for the beatific vision, to know God, and to be eternally present with Him. Her longing to be united with Him was so immense it made everything else in this life less attractive, nothing could compare to God. We are all called to detach from this life; to not hold on too tightly to material possessions as well as to hold on too tightly to life itself. Above all, we are called to put Christ at the center of our lives and of our hearts.
3. “I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passersby. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new…”
We are all called to be saints. The path towards heaven can seem daunting and almost impossible, it may even seem too hard to even attempt. St. Therese stomped out all discouraging thoughts and replaced them with hope and trust in Christ. She shows us that the path towards sainthood involves trusting in God and doing His will. We must trust in God’s goodness, and that He loves us so much that despite our sinful nature we can become saints. Trusting in God and believing in His goodness can dispel the unease that comes with thinking about death.
4. “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.”
St. Therese sees heaven as her true home and her earthly life as her way to get there. Her sights were not on this world but the next. She reminds us that this life is fleeting and short compared to eternity after death. She reminds us that the true purpose of our life is to be united with God in heaven.
5. “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”
St. Therese did not see heaven as a place to be idle and rest. To her, heaven is a place where saints can do immeasurable good for God. Dying and going to heaven was the greatest opportunity for St. Therese, for she could finally love and reach others to an extent she could never do while on this earth. She takes delight in all she can accomplish after death. From her example, we do not have to fear death and see it as the end. Death is really only the beginning.
6. “I’m afraid I’ve feared death, but I won’t fear it after it takes place: I’m sure of this! And I’m not sorry for having lived; oh! No. It’s only when I ask myself: What is this mysterious separation of the soul from the body? It’s my first experience of this, but I abandon myself to God.”
The separation of soul and body is very mysterious to all those who have yet to experience it. While St. Therese admits to being afraid of death, she does not let that get in the way of her greatest desire: abandoning herself to God. That desire is the closest one to her heart. She surrenders her will to God and seeks to obey Him in all things, including her death. We can surrender our lives to God, fully entrusting Him with our existence.
7. “Yes, I’m like a tired and harassed traveler, who reaches the end of his journey and falls over. Yes, but I’ll be falling into God’s arms!”
St. Therese has this ability to talk about death in a poetic manner. Here she is commenting on her ill health right before her death. While she has been extremely sick and endured excruciating pain, the end is not bleak and miserable. The end of her life will bring her to Love itself. She does not pity herself or the fact that she is about die. Instead, she is joyful as her eyes are on God. We can learn so much from her example as Christians. We can learn it is possible to keep our heads lifted even while in pain, even while dying.
8. “Yes! What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not had any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant’s hesitation…”
Life is full of crosses and tribulations. When one is experiencing suffering, how one reacts to it can make all the difference. If you were to fall into despair and had no light to bring you out of it, then it would be easy to see life as a burden and death as preferable. However, with the light of faith and hope, you can view suffering through the fullness of the truth—it is how we participate in Christ's salvation and join in His Resurrection. St. Therese humbly admits that her faith gave her the strength to live, to keep going despite the difficulties and pain of life. The desire to end one's life is not the answer to suffering; rather it is faith that gives comfort and the ability to endure.
9. “When I am in heaven, you will have to fill my little hands with prayers and sacrifices to give me the pleasure of casting these as a shower of graces upon souls.”
St. Therese wanted to intercede for all of us before she even died. She reminds us of the connection between the living and the dead. Often it is easy to forget the saints and the assistance they can provide us. Even more likely is that we forget how much joy they take in interceding for us. For the saint it is not an annoyance, it is a gift.
10. “Neither do I desire any longer suffering or death, and still I love them both; it is love alone that attracts me, however I desired them for a long time; I possessed suffering and believed I had touched the shores for a long time: I possessed suffering and believed I had touched the shores of heaven, that the little flower would be gathered in the springtime of her life. Now, abandonment alone guides me. I have no other compass! I can no longer ask for anything with fervor except the accomplishment of God’s will in my soul without any creature being able to set obstacles in the way.”
St. Therese thought perhaps death or suffering might be the key to heaven. She realized that seeking heaven is secondary to one thing, seeking God’s will. Surrendering completely to Him is an indicator of our detachment from the things of this world, from people, and from our own life. If we abandon ourselves to God we can respond with joy and acceptance to any obstacle or turmoil, even death.
Which other St. Therese of Lisieux quotes inspire you? Share below in a comment!
Header Image - Thérèse de Lisieux en Jeanne d'Arc enchainée / Carmel del Lisieux