In the age of celebrities one might expect a celebrity-God to only associate with other celebrities, now called Saints. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul reminds us what the bible shouts loud and clear: those full of love, not self, breathe God’s creative life. Her story has been told many times and in many languages since she died in 1897 at twenty-four. Fr. John Clarke’s 1975 English translation is the core of this study edition authored by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D. Since both The Story of A Soul and the various manuscripts and translations have been commented on numerous times, we reflect only on what has been added.
Fr. Foley provides us with approximately one hundred pages of study guide whose purpose is “…to assist contemporary readers to apply the spiritual insights of the Story of a Soul to their lives.” It provides introductions, reflections, and discussion questions for each of the eleven chapters of the “Story.” About 40% of each chapter’s guide is introduction; 40%, reflection; 10% questions, and 10% notes. The introduction provides a summary of the main themes of the chapter by placing them in the context of Therese’ life and times, the reflection is his expansion of a few of those themes in a retreat-type style, the few questions are a means of asking the reader how she or he lives those few themes, and the notes provide references to the spiritual writers, classic authors, and scripture that were used in the introduction and summary.
I would have wished more questions than reflection but Fr. Foley’s editors, I am sure, have a better idea of his audience. Simply put, The Story of a Soul reflects 19th century French bourgeoisie, ultramontane Catholicism. The introduction reflects the dominant spirituality of mid twentieth century U.S. Catholicism. The “Story” is a classic. Fr. Foley’s introduction provides a challenge to live Therese’s “little way” of love, trust, and surrender for those of that culture,