Thursday, February 20, 2014

*Three Gifts of St. Therese* and *Letters to John Paul*

Recent review copies:

Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux: A Saint for Our Times by Patrick Ahern, was sent to me by Image Books, who recently hosted the Day of the Little Way. The book focuses on what the author calls Therese's three gifts: her universal appeal, her conviction, and her little way. But there were two things that captivated me most about this book.

The first was the way Fr. Ahern (who passed away in 2011 at the age of 92) linked St. Therese's extreme sensitivity and struggles to more than the death of her mother -- he outlines the multiple losses in Therese's early childhood, and reveals the ways in which those losses formed her. Fascinating, especially the account of how it was actually being returned to her own home (and therefore being torn away from a beloved caregiver) that was a formative trauma.

The other thing I loved about this book was Fr. Ahern's unabashed love for and personal connection to Therese, and the unveiling of his own struggles and the part his relationship with St. Therese played in overcoming those challenges.

A lovely book, and highly recommended.


Letters to John Paul: A Mother Discovers God's Love in Her Suffering Child, new from Moorings Press, is the moving account of the short life of John Paul Kilner, who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and died just one year ago today, at the age of fourteen months.

John Paul's parents, Elena and Pat, were faced with a parent's worst nightmare. In December of 2011, their little boy was born with a condition that they were told would bring about his death in a matter of months. Their life with him consisted of learning to manage his many life-threatening symptoms and to keep him breathing. But that is only the technical definition of their days. What their life with him truly consisted of was love. No matter how bleak and heartbreaking the prognosis, Elena and Pat Kilner loved their baby boy with their whole hearts. They never gave up on making his days as happy and comfortable as possible. They poured themselves out for their son.

I marveled at Elena's strength. And just as I began to wonder how she did it, how she remained so positive all the time, I read this:

Dear John Paul,

... I should clarify something I wrote you a couple letters back. "His yoke is light." It's not that your condition becomes easy or that we cease to suffer -- no, there is suffering. I definitely cried until my eyes were swollen shut the day I learned your diagnosis. But suffering is a necessary part of our life on earth, and we should be grateful for it, because it is the way we will be able to get to heaven someday. It is what we do with our suffering that is most important ... it is an opportunity to love God, to love others, and to grow in virtue....

John Paul, you have a beautiful purpose. 

This video* of John Paul's sister dancing for him, sums up for me the spirit of this book and of this family's inspiring faith:

"Well done, Madie," says her mother at the end of the dance. "Good job."

Indeed. Or, as Someone else once said and will surely say to the Kilners, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

* See more at this blog.

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