I'm sorry I did not write last week, but a young friend died suddenly, and I was occupied in supporting his family. In February 2007 my beautiful niece, Meghan, died suddenly in a car accident at the age of 20. You may see her photo and read a story about her in the Doylestown Intelligencer here. On October 18 I learned that her dear friend, Jarrod, had died suddenly on October 17 at age 22. Jack Morrison of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a story about Jarrod here.
Thinking about the sudden and premature deaths of these two sensitive, accepting young people, I turned (as always) to Therese for consolation. I found her letter to her seminarian-spiritual-brother, Maurice Belliere, of June 9, 1897: "Dear little Brother, I would like to tell you many things that I understand now that I am at the door of eternity, but I am not dying, I am entering into Life, and all that I cannot say to you here below, I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven."1 I am happy to think that Meghan and Jarrod, who had no opportunity to say or receive good-byes from their families and friends, are also in communion wth us in heaven and can make us understand everything left unsaid.
On July 14, 1897 Therese wrote to her priest-brother, Adolphe Roulland: "I really count on not remaining inactive in heaven. My desire is to work still for the Church and for souls. I am asking God for this and I am certain He will answer me. Are not the angels continually occupied with us without ever ceasing to see the divine Face and to lose themselves in the Ocean of Love without shores? Why would Jesus not allow me to imitate them?"2 What a consolation to think that these two young people, who had such great desires to be of service, will accomplish much more now than they ever would have on earth.
And Therese's desire to help souls was not abstract, but tender, intimate, and personal. On July 18 she wrote to Maurice Belliere, who had expressed his deep sorrow at her impending death: "Yes, I am certain of it, after my entrance into life, my dear little Brother's sadness will be changed into a peaceful joy that no one will be able to take from him. I feel it, we must go to heaven by the same way, that of suffering united to love . . . When I shall be in port, I shall teach you, dear little Brother of my soul, how you must sail the stormy sea of the world with the abandonment and the love of a child who knows his Father loves him and would be unable to leave him in the hour of danger. Ah! how I would like to be able to make you understand the tenderness of the Heart of Jesus, what He expects from you."3
Therese is the patron of those who suffer with AIDs, and she has strengthened and helped many young people who died early and those who mourn them. Surely part of her mission is to help all who are called to accept and recover from the tragic deaths of young persons, whether from illness or other causes, by allowing us to see that those we love share in her "heaven doing good on earth." In the face of the stark reaity of their premature deaths, Therese helps us trust that the beloved young who have have lost themselves in "the Ocean of Love without shores" will launch us "full sail upon the waves of confidence and love." They have returned to the Source only to draw us there.
1Letters of Saint Therese: General Correspondence, Volume Two, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright 1988 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., ICS Publications, p. 1128.
2Ibid., p. 1142.
3Ibid., p. 1152.