On July 2, at the daily Mass he offered at Martha House in the Vatican City, Pope Francis urged Christians to be courageous in their weakness and to have the courage to flee temptation.
“We are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. And often our courage must be expressed in escaping without looking back, so as not to fall into the trap of wicked nostalgia. “Do not be afraid, and always look to the Lord,” he added.
Pope Francis recalled St. Therese of Lisieux, who said that “in some temptations, the only solution is to escape, to not be ashamed to escape, to recognize that we are weak and we have to escape.”
Pope Francis remarked on the wisdom of the epigram that the one "who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.”
Escape, he said, “to go forward along the path of Jesus.” (See the whole story at Catholic News Agency). . . . But what temptation did Therese find she had to escape?
St. Therese and Sister Marthe in a small dispute at the door of the prioress's cell
Among other texts, Pope Francis could have been recalling St. Therese's account of a squabble with Sister Marthe of Jesus over who was going to return to the prioress the keys of the little communion grille after Mass.
Mother Gonzague, then prioress, was too sick to attend Mass, and Therese, as sacristan, had the duty of returning the keys to the little grille that had to be opened so that the priest could give Communion to the sisters, who knelt there in turn.
The two young women ran into each other at the door to the prioress's cell, and Marthe was afraid Therese would waken the prioress. She wanted to take the keys from Therese, who didn't want to give them up.
Marthe was pushing the door of the prioress's cell to prevent Therese's entering, and, when Mother Gonzague awakened, Marthe blamed Therese for making the noise. Therese writes:
"I, who felt just the contrary, had a great desire to defend myself. Happily, there came a bright idea into my mind, and I told myself that if I began to justify myself I would not be able to retain my peace of soul. I felt, too, that I did not have enough virtue to permit myself to be accused without saying a word. My last plank of salvation was in flight. No sooner thought than done. I left without fuss, allowing the Sister to continue her discourse which resembled the imprecations of Camillus against the city of Rome. My heart was beating so rapidly that it was impossible for me to go far, and I sat down on the stairs in order to savor the fruits of my victory. There was no bravery there, Mother; however, I believe it was much better for me not to expose myself to combat when there was certain defeat facing me.
Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 2005, pp. 347-348.
This funny little incident, which happened when Therese was between 18 and 20, is an example of Therese's spiritual realism, which often helped her to resist the temptations of the enemy and to align herself with God. She did not have the light to yield to Sister Marthe: "I understand now that it would have been more perfect to cede to this Sister, young, it is true, but still older than I. I did not understand it then . . ." Therese knew it would be a mistake "to justify herself," but also knew that, if she stayed there, she would not be able to help defending herself. She accepted her limitations as the boundaries drawn to her being by her gracious God, and cooperated with grace as best she could. Do you often find yourself in situations where it is better to leave than to expose yourself to "certain defeat?"