Conrad de Meester
With Empty Hands - The Message of St Thérèse of Lisieux
ISBN 0 860123 21 9
Burns & Oates, London, 2002, £9.99
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed January 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2004
Thérèse is the saint of hope. She shows us with what liberating force God can take possession of us and work through us. Thus says Conrad de Meester in the revised and amplified version of his classic Thérèsian commentary, With Empty Hands.
Thérèse has an important message for all Christians: holiness is not the result of our own efforts; it is the work of God. Ultimately we must all appear before him with empty hands. We all know that in theory; in practice, most of us favour the do-it-yourself approach! So did Thérèse at first and it was only through repeated failure that she learned the lessons which as a doctor of the Church she gives to 'little souls' or ordinary people. Fr de Meester traces Thérèse's spiritual journey from the adolescent who dreamed of conquering the citadel of sanctity to the young woman who laid down her arms, asking God himself to be her holiness. It is the journey of a loving soul who came to realize that her own love would never be great enough; God would have to lend her his! Perfection then became simple: I see it is sufficient to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself as a child in God's arms, concluded Thérèse.
In this detailed exposé of the Little Way of spiritual childhood, the author shows how Thérèse's doctrine is firmly rooted in Scripture and imbued with the spirit of a Paul, an Augustine, and a St John of the Cross. Fr de Meester is an excellent guide with his penetrating analysis of Thérèsian weakness and audacity, abandonment and unremitting fidelity, poverty and endless trust in God's merciful love. This is a book to challenge and encourage us to lift our empty hands and receive the fullness of God.
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