She's So Funny!

I think St. Therese has a great sense of humor. Stories are told of how she used to keep the sisters entertained with her stories in the convent during recreation time. After all, Sister Marie of the Angels said, "Her head is full of mischief to play on anyone she pleases. Mystic, comic, everything. She can make you weep with devotion and just as easily split your sides with laughter during recreations." She also loved to do impressions, a skill she learned from her father! Perhaps Little Therese was taking a cue from the great Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila, who once wrote, "God, deliver me from sad-faced saints!"

"I always find a way of being happy," Therese wrote in her autobiography, Story of a Soul. And even in her pain and suffering, she wanted to make others laugh.

From Fr. Pius Sammut OCD:

We know that Therese, like her father, was a great mimic and even in Carmel she often entertained the Sisters with imitations of others. The younger sisters in the community were always disappointed when she was absent for recreation because then they said it was going to be boring without her.

Though she was the one facing death, Therese took it on herself to cheer up the other sisters with her sense of humor. Mother Agnes tells us "She was always cheerful in spite of her sufferings. She began amusing herself by talking about everything that would happen after her death. Because of the way she did this, when we should have been crying, she had us bursting out with peals of laughter. I believe she'll die laughing."

They cut her finger nails. "Keep them," she said, "someday someone will treasure them." She performed little skits for them with her drinking glass. Once when Mother Agnes was sitting at the foot of the infirmary bed, Therese told her she had come up with a new sign of affection for her that she never received from anyone else, and lifting up her leg she brushed Mother Agnes' cheek with her foot! Another time she called to Mother Agnes, "Give me a kiss, a kiss that makes noise; so that the lips go 'smack'."

When the chaplain refused to give her Extreme Unction one day because she made a special effort to sit up and be ready, and he decided that she looked too well, she said to the sisters "Well, I'll just try to look sicker next time!" When she confided to another priest all the temptations she was having in her trial of faith, he said to her "Don't think about that; it's dangerous." And she said "That wasn't too helpful!"

She teased the attending physician a lot... who kept changing his diagnoses on her... She told him that nevertheless he wasn't going to prevent her from going to heaven but that she would have her revenge on him and keep him on earth longer. And in fact he died at the ripe old age of 81, so she got her revenge! She joked with the sisters about being the one to try out the new cemetery plot. And when they were talking about how they would arrange her in the coffin, she said "Well, put the candle in my hand but not those candlesticks--they're too ugly!" *

I have my own funny stories about Therese to share, but I'll tell you my favorites.

One Sunday afternoon, I was giving a talk to a group from the St. Francis Family Center, through Catholic Social Services of Oakland County, MI. Some ladies had organized a benefit tea and had asked me to speak to their group about St. Therese. I thought it was perfect since the motto of this foster parent agency is "Live Deeper, Love Wider." Sounds just like our friend Therese, no?

During this time, I had been praying for a rose from our friend for a special intention I had. I don't even remember what it was at the time, just that I had been asking Therese for a rose. And I wasn't getting one.

I showed up at the tea and it was quite lovely. There were some foster children there who spoke and I happily gave them autographed books. They were amazing, sweet children. When it was time for me to speak, wouldn't you know it: The microphone died. So there I am trying to speak to a large group of ladies and my voice is barely audible. That was a bit discouraging, since I have a voice that doesn't carry well (and I have kids!). I did the best I could and was happy to hear as I signed books afterward that the ladies did, indeed, hear what I had to say! Although the event went well and was enjoyable, it was a rainy, gloomy day and I was feeling a little disappointed and overwhelmed at all of the little tasks mothers have to do at home to prepare for a new week ahead. I kept wondering why St. Therese hadn't sent me my rose yet.

As I was packing up my things and saying goodbye to all of the nice ladies at the tea, one of the ladies said to me, "Did you have any refreshments? Come and sit down! There are plenty."

She motioned for me to sit down and so I did, even though my mind was full of the things I had to do once I got home. Moms are like that.

She pushed a pretty floral teacup toward me and poured some hot water into it. It was then that I noticed that the teacup had roses on it. And the teabag at my place had "Red Rose" printed on it, with a picture of a red rose. And then I noticed that the centerpieces at each table were...roses! I had to laugh, but St. Therese was not done with me yet. Just in case her message wasn't clear enough, she came at me with one last, emphatic try: In the cloakroam, as I searched for my raincoat, I came across a black jacket on a hanger. Embroidered on the front were the words: "St. Therese of Lisieux." And a large red rose was embroidered on top of that.

"Okay, okay! I get it, Little Therese! An entire shower of roses are in this room!" I had to laugh.

And I had been too preoccupied with what I had to do that day that I didn't even see!

There are many days I feel I'd like to sit down with her and have a cup of coffee (did she drink coffee? I know as a child she liked hot chocolate for breakfast, like every good French girl!) and a croissant and just laugh and talk. Since we can't do that, she sends me these little "incidents" to warm my heart.

Another time, I was driving to a busy suburban town in Detroit for a doctor's appointment. I always leave plenty of time for driving there, parking, etc. since I know what a busy town it is. I was pretty smug that day, thinking I would arrive nice and early for my appointment. When I got downtown, I pulled up to the parking garage I usually park in, only to find out that it was closed and under construction! Because of this, there were absolutely no parking spots available on the side streets. I drove around and around the town at the noontime rush hour, finding nothing. I'd have to park really far away, and I knew that I would be fairly late if this craziness continued.

Just then I remembered a cute little granny who loved St. Therese telling me that she used to imagine St. Therese sitting in the back seat of her car as she drove around looking for a place to park. She used to ask the saint for help finding a spot. I thought that was very funny. Imagine, picturing St. Therese riding around in the back seat of your car!

But that cute granny's story came to me then as I frantically searched for a parking spot around town. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to do it. All of the serious problems in this world, and I'm going to bother her with something like this? No, I couldn't do it. It didn't seem important enough.

I drove around and around, finding nothing. I was getting desperate. I just couldn't be late for this appointment!

It was time to trust. So I gave in. I pictured her in the back seat of my car.

Yes, I really did.

"St. Therese, please help me find—"

I couldn't even finish my sentence. A car began to back out at the perfect time for me to slide right in, then and there.

St. Therese, you are so funny! That's one of the many reasons why I love you so much!

"... whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it." Mark 10:15

St. Therese, childlike and simple in joy and suffering, pray for us!

* (c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD.

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