Confronting several impasses in my personal life--in accepting the early deaths of persons I love and in my relationship with friends, members of my family, my local church, and other communities to which I have given myself--I experience the pain and powerlessness of being unable to make a difference in areas that matter deeply to me. Reflecting on the experience of impasse, I realize that Therese confronted impasse very often.
At fourteen she felt so strongly that Jesus was calling her to be a Carmelite nun that, she said, "had I been forced to pass through fire, I would have done so." Having exhausted all her church appeals, she returned to Lisieux from Rome without the "yes" she had so desired. Pauline described her first conversation with Therese after the pilgrimage: "In spite of her real disapointment, she nevertheless displayed a great peace of soul, founded on her complete surrender to God's will. That conversation inspired me with such respect for her that I can still remember it quite vividly."
At sixteen she had to suffer her father's being confined to a mental asylum, and for five years she lived out her vocation in the face of his great trial. "Jesus has sent us the best chosen Cross he was able to find in His immense love. How can we complain when He Himself was looked upon as a man struck by God and humbled?"
During the priorate of her sister she had to sustain the constant conflict between Mother Agnes and the former Prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague. After one painful scene between them, Therese is reported to have said "Now I know what Jesus suffered when He saw His mother suffering."
When Mother Marie de Gonzague was prioress, Therese had to live in a community not administered as she herself believed it should be administered, but she never stopped searching for ways "to please Jesus" in that context.
Sister Marie-Madeleine, a young lay sister who was one of the five novices Therese trained, was so afraid of Therese that when she was supposed to confer with her she would run away and hide. Marie-Madeleine testified "From the time I entered until she died, I never felt any natural affection for her. I even avoided her . . . . I found her too perfect. But she . . . often arranged things so that she could wash up beside me and chat to me. She showed trust in me, in an effort to enable me to trust her." On her death-bed Therese sent Marie-Madeleine this message: "Tell her I will pray for her in heaven and that I will love her just as much as I do the other novices." Years later Marie-Madeleine said "I was not then in a condition to profit from her advice, but since her death, how she has changed me! It's incredible. I am all peaceful and confident. I don't recognize myself."
Confronted with an impasse, Therese "saw God in everything" and never gave up being faithful to prayer, faithful to love, and faithful to charity. She lived out the counsel of her father St. John of the Cross: "Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and, where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love." Since her death we have seen many miracles God worked at her intercession. In her lifetime she herself was the miracle; without ever seeing much fruit from her efforts, she continued to risk everything and to repeat "You have given me delight, O Lord, in all your doing."