The Love That Keeps Us Sane
Friday Book Pick: The Love That Keeps Us Sane by Marc Foley, O.C.D.
If the prevalence of statues, pictures, and novena holy cards is a measure of saintly popularity, then we would have to conclude that St. Thérèse of Lisieux is among the most popular of modern saints. She’s everywhere! It’s not surprising, I suppose, to see evidence of devotion to her in my travels in Europe (it is her native continent, after all), but even in my travels in Africa I couldn’t go anywhere, it seemed, without coming face-to-face with an image of the famous Carmelite. Yet, it is no less true that “the Little Flower” is relegated, by some, to the “unrelatable” category of saints, even though there is much more to Saint Thérèse than tender diminutives and cascading roses.
St. Thérèse was a French Carmelite nun who attained sanctity by concentrating all her loving attention on the present moment in all its ordinariness. This marvelous modern Saint and Doctor of the Church has wisdom to offer which is immediately applicable for us living through this pandemic.
The Love that Keeps Us Sane is a treasure chest of wisdom for living in close quarters with charity. The title itself is already captivating, as it reveals the presumption that our sanity is something needing “keeping,” as if we could all teeter over the edge of insanity at a moment’s notice without some well-posted guards. Anyone living in quarantine for the last two months will not have to think twice about accepting that premise.
There is a spectrum of sanity, of course. We are not aiming to merely escape insanity; rather, we wish to thrive, flourish and live the fullest possible integration within ourselves and communion with one another. Our path of discipleship should lead us to a sanity that yields balance, perspective, and integration, while being grounded in reality, without illusions…. St. Thérèse offers an example of how to foster and maintain this.
In the vivid color of our Catholic imaginations we can, perhaps, easily see ourselves going cheerfully to the guillotine or skipping merrily to the stake. No matter that no one is actually threatening us with blade or flame. Our imagined heroism, unmoored from our real situation, is not likely to be put to the test. What is likely to be put to the test is our charity, our patience, and our generosity. St. Thérèse referred to her life in the monastery as a “martyrdom of pinpricks.” Pinpricks make a far less glorious feature-saint-film, but they have the benefit of being real, and reality is precisely where holiness is attained.
The “Little Flower” had grit. What I mean by that is she could make difficult decisions and stick to them, she could endure conflict and even initiate it when needed, she could feel and acknowledge her emotions without being driven or controlled by them, and, she could endure and overcome intense pain—physical and emotional. St. Thérèse allowed these very circumstances to be the instruments of her refinement—her sanctification. All of these qualities are brought forth in this marvelous little book by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D. In its 82 pages we catch a glimpse of Thérèse, the real person who navigates the emotional trials (pin pricks) of communal living with such nimble and deft movements, that whether you are a long-time devotee or not, you will want to take her for a guide as you strive to learn to live your “enclosure” with charity, patience and, yes, sanity of the highest order.
Mother Clare, CFR