St. Thérèse and inspiration

God does not inspire us to do what cannot be done.

Attr. to St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The actual quotation is:

I know that Jesus cannot will needless suffering for us, and that He would not inspire me with the desires I feel if He were unwilling to fulfill them.

Story of a Soul, Chapter VIII.

The difference may look subtle, but it’s significant, especially if we look at the wider context of what the saint wrote:

Ah! since that day love penetrates me and surrounds me; this Merciful Love each moment renews and purifies me, leaving in my heart no trace of sin. No, I cannot fear Purgatory; I know that I do not merit even to enter with the Holy Souls into that place of expiation, but I know too that the fire of Love is more sanctifying than the fire of Purgatory, I know that Jesus cannot will needless suffering for us, and that He would not inspire me with the desires I feel if He were unwilling to fulfill them.

This isn’t a call to action, to get out there and do something (though there certainly is a place for that). This is a statement of faith that Jesus is wouldn’t call us and then turn away.

St. Teresa/Theresa/Thérèse: Use the gifts

Use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

This is the form, attributed to St. Thérèse, that showed up on my FB wall. A Google search revealed two important things:

  1. It’s also attributed to St. Theresa of Ávila and to St. Mother Teresa.
  2. It’s not by any of them because it’s an excerpt from this: “May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” I am confident that none of them would speak of “the infinite possibilities that are born of faith,” and it’s also very unlikely that any of them would speak of “the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.”

I don’t know who wrote it, but it was written some time between 1970 and today.

St. Thérèse and praying for priests

Before I say anything else, let me thank all of you who pray for your priests!

There are two (at least) prayers for priests attributed to St. Thérèse. I’m pretty sure that neither one is hers.


O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep Your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
Where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Your Sacred Body,
Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let your Holy Love surround them and shield them from the world’s contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit,
and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation
here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown.

The prayer appears in The American Ecclesiastical Review;: A Monthly Publication for the Clergy, Volume 50, pp. 608-609, publication date January 1914.

From a Sister of the Holy Child at Sharon Hill, Penna., who does some admirable artistic work (mostly for the uses of her own Community), we receive a tasteful parchment card on which the subjoined prayer is printed. We would recommend the card to priests as a souvenir in place of the sometimes elaborate, but rarely effective pictures sent to the friends of the newly-ordained on occasion of the celebration of a First Mass. This simple and beautiful prayer, with the signature and the date of ordination written at the bottom or on the back of the card by the newly-ordained priest’s own hand, would be apt to gain him the grace of faithful intercession and affectionate cooperation of friends more surely than the formal inscription on the back of a conventional picture or design.

I’m not sure how or when it got associated with the Little Flower. I can’t find it associated with her before 2000.

This is the other prayer, also probably not from St. Thérèse’s pen:

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;
 for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
 for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields.
 for your tempted priests;
 for your lonely and desolate priests;
 For your young priests;
 for your dying priests;
 for the souls of your priests in Purgatory.
 But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
 the priest who baptized me;
 the priests who absolved me from my sins;
 the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
 the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way (especially …).
 O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
 and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
This prayer comes in some places with a leading paragraph:
O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of Your Son and for love of Him, who is the Eternal High Priest, have pity on Your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the bishop’s hands. Keep them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

I’ve seen it attributed in several places to Cardinal Cushing, who was Archbishop of Boston from 1944-1970, though I couldn’t find an original source to nail it down.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception included the prayer with no author given in a prayer book published in 1991.

I think it got associated with St. Thérèse when the Diocese of Arlington, VA included it in their St. Thérèse Vocation Society pamphlet, which must have gotten some wider publicity since it’s on the USCCB website. The pamphlet doesn’t attribute it to St. Thérèse, but it would still be an easy mistake to make.

Please, please do pray for priests; these are lovely prayers to use for that purpose; the priesthood was close to St. Thérèse’s heart; but I really don’t think she wrote either one of them.