Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Passion of Therese of Lisieux

This is the story of the final part of Therese of Lisieux's life. I don't pretend to understand the Christian term 'passion', which seems to mean 'suffering leading up to death'. That's certainly what this book is about. I have an autobiography of Saint Therese on my list of books to read, but this deals purely with the onset of symptoms of the tuberculosis that led to her death.

This is an interesting read, particularly because I had no idea who Saint Therese was or why she was important (or even that she was actually a canonised saint). I was also rather ignorant as to the progression and final stages of pulmonary tuberculosis, that it can spread to the intestines (which apparently causes gangrene and is most unpleasant) or even that there were multiple varieties of tuberculosis (I shall have to google phthisical tuberculosis - apparently phthisis is a medical term for 'wasting away' and so it has the same meaning as 'consumption' and other terms no longer used for tuberculosis, one definition has it as meaning 'pulmonary tuberculosis'!).

I personally found Saint Therese rather irritating in her desire to die, to be a martyr. Isn't she supposed to wish to live so as to work for her god? Apparently, that only applies if you consider the Christian heaven to be a place of rest. Saint Therese considered that she would be able to do her work far better in heaven and so was anxious to be there. I'm not sure how I feel about her, but I consider her 'little way' to be something of great interest. As far as I can tell, it entails being completely dependent on and trusting in god, such that you give yourself up into god. As you might imagine I see quite a few parallels to what she says with what Bernadette Roberts said in her book. It's likely I'm seeing things that aren't there, but there are certain phrases that Saint Therese uses in describing her experiences that struck me all the more forcefully for the previous reading.

As someone interested in what makes people themselves, this is an interesting book. I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone that wasn't interested in Saints, Religion or the Way Religion Effects People.

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