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I’ve lived with chronic pain since I was 13 from both fibromyalgia and endometriosis—and I am grateful. I’m grateful for these illnesses, and I’m grateful that they began when I was 13.
Because that was also the year that I met St. Thérèse. It was my Confirmation year, and we had to pick our Confirmation saint. I hadn’t planned on picking Thérèse. I still can’t remember how I ended up reading a biography of her, but I do remember reading her autobiography, Story of a Soul, as soon as possible after I finished that biography.
At the time, I couldn’t really have articulated what exactly happened to me when I read Thérèse’s words. I knew that the way she loved God—fully, joyfully, and like a child—was how I wanted to love God. But I think, in hindsight, her philosophy of suffering was particularly relevant to my life that year.
It was comforting to know that at least something productive could come out of my own pain—something bigger than myself and something small, that I could give without really doing anything. “Love lives only by sacrifice,” she wrote, “and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.”
Over the past two years, I’ve been living with a resurgence of chronic pain now as a wife, mother, and business leader. And this doctrine means more to me than ever before. I have a greater understanding of Jesus’ suffering because of my own—and thanks in part to the example of Thérèse that I’ve known since I was 13.
Jesus didn’t need to suffer. God could have saved us through any other method. He’s God, after all. But, we have thick skulls. God has to be dramatic sometimes, and what better way to show us just how much He loves us than to die like He did—so painfully, and at the hands of people He loved so much?
Thérèse loves Jesus more than anything, and because of that love, she loves His children more than anything. More than her own life. Which is why, at the end of her life, Thérèse said, “My mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I loved Him, of giving my little way to souls.”
Thérèse was willing to die young if that’s what God asked of her—and she did not plan on resting after death. No, she was confident because of Jesus’ love for her that she would go to Heaven, and she was confident because of His love for her that He would allow her to work miracle after miracle in His Name, to show the most wayward and desperate souls that they were loved.
“My vocation is love,” Thérèse famously wrote—and isn’t that true of us all? We are all loved more than we can imagine. And we’re all called to love as much as we can.
Taryn DeLong is a Catholic wife and mother in North Carolina who serves as co-president and editor-in-chief of Catholic Women in Business. Her writing has appeared in publications such as FemCatholic, Natural Womanhood, CatholicMom.com, Radiant Magazine, and Live Today Well Co. She enjoys curling up with a cup of Earl Grey and a good novel, playing the piano, and taking walks in the sunshine with her family.
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