My Life with St. Joan and St. Thérèse - Chapter 4
How St. Thérèse helped me enter into consecration to Mary
The Dove and Rose offers free and paid subscriber options. Publications from my books are paid subscriber only. Much of the rest is free. If you enjoy The Dove Rose regularly, consider becoming a monthly or yearly paid subscriber.
I also have a tip jar in the main menu and after each post. If you enjoy a post and want to make a one-time contribution to my work, the gesture will be much appreciated!
Most importantly, enjoy yourself because I appreciate that you are here.
1985-86, Guymon Oklahoma
There is little between Amarillo and Guymon. At least, there was not in the years immediately following our marriage. No offense is intended to those who live in Goodwell, Texhoma, Stratford, or Dumas. We passed through all of these small towns on the way. Guymon certainly was just a little bigger or more noteworthy. However, even collectively, they all made for minimal contact with civilization during the two-hour and fifteen-minute drive.
The surrounding landscape was what one might expect in the Texas Panhandle, barren ranch land and field after field of farmland. The terrain was sometimes flat, but it was always broad. The sky was virtually a complete dome from one horizon to the next. We were driving through “Big Country.”
It was Saturday. Josey and I, married less than a year now, were traveling to our favorite Catholic bookstore. Despite the growing size of St. Peter’s parish and the new church, Guymon still had no Catholic bookstore. We had to drive over two hours to Amarillo to find one. Nevertheless, it was fun. It was relaxing. It was a time to talk, grab a coke at one of the oases of commercial activity (typically in Dumas, TX – roughly the halfway point), and kick back. Driving endlessly through Big Country is therapy for the soul that folks in very populated areas do not have the opportunity to experience regularly. We loved it.
The bookstore in Amarillo was off the beaten track. It was not in a mall or commercially busy area. The “store” was actually an out-of-the-way converted house. The moment you walked through the front door, you found yourself standing in the middle of statues, rosary cases, and holy cards – just like in any good Catholic bookstore. We pulled up in the parking lot. It was a beautiful day. Strolling in, we amused ourselves looking over the wide variety of items.
It took me only a short time to head toward the rear of the store where the books were located. I loved my new faith, church, Eucharist of Our Lord, and Holy Mother. The Glories of Mary and True Devotion to Mary had ignited a fire in my heart for Our Lady. This fire continues today, and I pray it will eventually flare upward to the Heavens when my time for eternity arrives.
I found a curious little book. Later, I discovered it was more “little” than I had imagined. It was actually about a “little way.” Still, it was tiny in physical stature as compared to those around it. On the front was a painting of a young nun holding roses. Why I was drawn to a small book that looked like it was for Catholic women, I only can explain through grace. It was not the type of book I would usually be entertaining. I already had a copy of St. Augustine’s City of God I picked from one of the bookshelves. That was the type of manly intellectual reading I wanted. What should I make of this rather girlish-looking book? I only know that I was drawn to it. I wanted to read that book. So, I bought it.
That rather girlish-looking book I purchased was the most important literature, outside of sacred scripture, that I would ever read after The Glories of Mary and True Devotion to Mary. The book was The Story of a Soul – The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
A week later, I sat at home in my favorite reading chair with St. Thérèse’s book resting on my chest as I leaned back to think. I was contemplating Thérèse’s words, the story of her life, and her challenges as a young woman in 19th century France entering the Carmelites, a contemplative order under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Thérèse’s words were remarkable. They were imbued with a rich spirituality that I had never experienced in my life. The book was excellent and made me feel very joyful when reading it.
There was, though, just one issue. I had no idea what Thérèse was talking about. What she said was beautiful. I just did not understand what it was that she was saying. Understanding Thérèse was about to become a lifelong journey for me, which I am still far from completing today. I know I will never finish that journey unless I am blessed to enter Paradise.
Although I was too spiritually dull to understand this young nun, I knew I wanted what she had. I knew that I loved this little nun. I was devoted to her immediately, with a devotion that would only blossom over the years. Eventually, I would come to see her as “my little mother,” the title I use when praying to her today. Mary is our true spiritual mother, as decreed by Christ to St. John while dying on the Cross. Thérèse became my “little mother” and “big sister.” I received Thérèse’s spiritual DNA on her Feast Day, October 1, 1984.
Thérèse already was a permanent fixture in my spiritual life. As the months went by, I continued to peruse her book. We bought a statue of St. Thérèse for our home.
One day Josey was in the living room. I stood in the connecting dining room next to the kitchen serving bar, looking out the backyard window. I had been reading more and more about the Carmelites because of Thérèse.
“You know,” I said matter-of-factly, “we could become Carmelites. There is something called a Third Order that allows those who live in the world an opportunity to share in the spiritual riches of the Order. We could become Carmelites like St. Thérèse!”
Josey was ever happy to agree. After a few days of research, we found a Discalced Carmel with an active Third Order in Piedmont, OK, just outside Oklahoma City. We made arrangements with the Third Order to visit. It was a five-hour journey to Oklahoma City, but we found it. The Carmelite sisters welcomed us warmly. We continued to go each month to the Carmelites for formation, usually driving the entire five-hour trip to Piedmont and a five-hour return trip, all on the same day. That is how excited we were to be associated with Our Lady’s and St. Thérèse’s Carmelites. After one year, we made our temporary, three-year promise to the Order.
One of the requirements when making the temporary promise was that we pick a “religious” name just as the First Order religious do. I chose as my own “St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face,” Thérèse’s own religious name. Indeed I was devoted to this young saint. (Sadly, for reasons I will reveal later, we did not make our final promise three years later to the Carmelites. That story is to come.)
While all this was happening, and we were driving back and forth to Oklahoma City each month, the priests at St. Peter’s understood that I was now very devoted to St. Thérèse. They encouraged me in my Marian and Thérèsian devotions. They were interested in our endeavor to become Third Order Carmelites. We now had a new associate pastor at the parish. Fr. Burger was still the primary pastor, but Fr. Duane Mallon had moved on. Fr. Joseph Haley was his replacement. Fr. Haley was middle-aged with an average build. He was somewhat short with dark black hair.
One day Fr. Haley saw me as I approached the chapel at church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. He stopped me on the sidewalk. He handed me something. It was a small, golden object with a glass front. Inside and protected by the glass was a very, very tiny object.
“This is a relic of St. Thérèse. There is a tiny fragment of her Carmelite habit and one of her hairs glued inside. I received it years ago and am giving it to you.”
You can imagine how I felt. Of course, we still have that relic today. Over the years, St. Thérèse has been with us in many ways, including sitting on our devotional tables and bookshelves! What a blessing.
Not long after receiving St. Thérèse’s relic, I did the Saint Louis de Montfort thirty-three-day preparation for consecration to the Blessed Virgin. On July 16, 1986, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I had no idea what was about to happen. The rest of my life would be grounded in living out this Marian devotion, and I now had a “little mother,” a sister in Christ, to guide me.
Check out The Dove and Rose podcast here and on Anchor, Spotify, or Apple.
Check out the Heroic Hearts podcast on Substack, Spotify, or Apple. Heroic Hearts is a podcast about healing, enchanting, and elevating our hearts through the stories and spirituality of St. Joan of Arc and St. Therese of Lisieux. Co-hosted with Amy Chase.