Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

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It all started with Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. When my parents came to visit after I had my son, my dad gave me a copy, which I had great intentions of reading while on maternity leave, but I didn’t actually finish until a full year later. It was a book which completely transformed my spiritual life, which you can read about here.

At the end of last summer, when we were in the full swing of getting our classrooms ready and initial lesson planning done, I asked one of my pastors if I could meet with him to go over some ideas I had for my 8th grade religion class. We set a time, and when I realized I had a little time before the meeting, I slipped into the daily mass chapel at my parish where there was Eucharistic Adoration. During that time, I finished Interior Freedom and put the book in my bag so I could take some time to pray in thanksgiving for the incredible spiritual blessings I had received in reading it.

An even farther back piece of back story is this: I have always had a huge spiritual block about Saint Therese of Lisieux. In high school, all the extra holy girls in my very rigidly Catholic high school were always saying rose novenas to Saint Therese for “my future husband”. In a completely unfair and judgmental way, I subbed the spirituality of Saint Therese with the annoyance I felt for these girls.

But Father Jacques is incredibly influenced by Saint Therese and her wisdom is present throughout the entire book Interior Freedom. As I was sitting in adoration, I felt God pulling at my heart. Ok God, I thought. If you really want me to, I will read Story of a Soul. As you probably know, when you allow God to speak to you like this, he often moves fast. As I met Father Peter at the door, he greeted me and then asked, “Would you be interested in a group that reads Story of a Soul and then meets to discuss it?” At that point I couldn’t ignore God’s invitation any longer. I bought the book and read it. Unfortunately Father left our parish before the group could come together, but two friends joined me to read and discuss the book together.

So much has been written about Saint Therese that I don’t know if my review can really do her justice. She was the youngest of five sisters, all of whom became religious sisters, and most in the same order as Therese. Her parents are also canonized saints. Therese became a cloistered nun at 15 and died at 24, and in that time she was asked to write her life’s story out for various Mother Superiors of the Order. I expected that I would learn some valuable things from Therese. I mean, she is a Doctor of the Church. What I didn’t expect is to fall in love with a saint I had kept at a distance for so long based on a high school prejudice. But fall in love I did.

A few of my favorite quotes from the book:
I felt that there was a heaven, and that this heaven was peopled with souls who actually love me.
And my soul grew through contact with holy things.
My God! I choose all! I don’t want to be a saint by halves!
(This is recorded in the afterward, not written by Therese, but said as she was dying.) I will return! I will spend my heaven doing good on earth!

This book has certainly done me a world of good. Definitely read it. 🙂

Popcorn rating: 3. Because the book was written in French, sometimes the translation feels a bit awkward. Also, Therese has a beautiful melodramatic writing style with lots of italics and creative capitalization.
Stars: 5. Therese’s little way of growing closer to Christ is doable for everyone. She also has a great sense of humor about her shortcomings, which I always appreciate.

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