Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

St. Therese and the Monk

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My relationship with St. Therese skyrocketed when I unexpectedly ran into her during my first trip to St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City, when I was studying sociology at St. Bonaventure University.

Immediately upon opening the large, heavy wooden doors of the cathedral, the childlike healing face of St. Therese looked at me. It was the 100th anniversary of her death and I was looking at a large poster-sized photo of her on a stand. Her eyes, the size of lakes, filled the room with her spirit. Her head and shoulders were habited in the familiar Carmelite dress.

It was as if the room was filled with mystical smoke from heaven and her friendship. And as I walked past her through the smoke, it was as if I went deeper into my call to become a religious.
Her autobiography, A Story of A Soul, has had a great impact on my life. St. Therese wrote the book out of obedience, and thank goodness she did. Her book elevated her to become known as one of the greatest saints of modern times. Even though she never left her Carmel in Lisieux, France, her autobiography is one of the finest spiritual classics of our time and has been read by millions of people all over the world.
St. Therese is famous for her "Little Way." It appears to me that the heart of her teaching comes from a passage from a letter that she wrote to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart:
"I was still being tormented by this question of unfulfilled longings and it was a distraction in my prayer, when I decided to consult St. Paul's Epistles in hopes of getting an answer. It was the 12th and 13th chapters of First Corinthians that claimed my attention," St. Therese wrote.

St. Therese expounded on the Scripture passages, noting that St. Paul explains that all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love, are absolutely nothing. Charity is the best way of all because it leads straight to God.

"Now I was at peace; when St. Paul was talking about the different members of the Mystical body I couldn't recognize myself in any of them; or rather I could recognize myself in all of them. But Charity - that was the key to my vocation.... love, in fact is the vocation which includes all others; it's a universe of its own, comprising all time and space - it's eternal. ... To be nothing else then love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church; that's to be everything at once - my dream wasn't a dream after all," St. Therese concluded.

My dream was to become a monk at Belmont Abbey, but it didn't happen overnight.

After I left St. Bonaventure University I went back home to New Jersey, where I worked in advertising and lived on my own. Two years later I stumbled across a Benedictine monastery. The very first moment I stepped onto the grounds, I felt a mini-explosion in my heart. The love of Christ was leading me in an unmistakable way to look towards the Benedictine life.

I found my way to Belmont Abbey, and it was as if God was guiding me. The love that opened in my heart was just as St. Therese described: a driving force of love that motivates us to be charitable, to be obedient, to do things for others in love.

When I arrived at Belmont Abbey, I found out what obedience truly was, and through it I received a gift from God: the most peace I have ever had. Through my obedience to
the abbot and the monastery and with the peace and love I now have, I feel a joy and a motivation to be charitable and to spread the love of Christ.

St. Therese was a big part of my call. Her prayers helped get me here. She shows each of us that this is what the call of Christ in our lives can do.

Br. Edward Mancuso
Belmont Abbey

(Originally published in the Catholic News Heard. Printed with permission.)

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1 Responses »

  1. What a beautiful testimony to the movement of the Holy Spirit through the witness of Little Flower. May God continue to bless you Br. Edward.