Thanks to the splendid new Web site of the Baltimore Carmel, you can read online Sister Constance FitzGerald's article "Contemplative Life as Charismatic Presence" (Spiritual Life, Vol. 29, No. 1, 1983) in which she explores the question of how contemplatives can be present to the body of Christ and and speaks to how Therese answered that question with her life. An excerpt:
Where in the charismatic picture do contemplatives fit? And how are we to be
present today to the Body of Christ and to the overwhelming needs of
God's people which invade and plague our consciousness and seem to
shake our very souls? We rattle the bars of our human finitude as the
pressures for participation and immediate efficaciousness bombard us
from every corner of the world. And we ask if our mortality is not a
source of despair pointing to an unreachable dream.
No genuine contemplative can escape this struggle, this search for
meaning in the contemplative role. Furthermore, no one can pretend
that the achievement of personal identity is accomplished once and for
all by anyone generation or any person. Basically. we grow through a
series of integrations and identifications achieved within the con~
creteness of contemporary history.
The classic example of this struggle is Therese of Lisieux. And her
description of the anguish is no mere sentimental devotion characteristic
of nineteenth century French piety. but the "groaning" or
travail of creation seeking its redemption or liberation in her person.
Somehow the existential powerlessness of the human condition, augumented
by the inhibitions of cloistered structures. makes more urgent
the discovery of an answer to the question of presence to need. Therese
was not at all satisfied with her contemplative presence as she experienced
it: "Carmelite, Spouse, Mother of Souls ... But I feel the
vocation of the fighter, the priest. the apostle. the doctor, the martyr."
she exclaims. I want to carry the gospel everywhere and die every kind
of martyrdom. "To satisfy me I need all." The sorrow of finitude
speaks here. How much latent humanity before us!