Book Review by guest blogger Lisa Comerford

As grace brings life to the soul, so pictures bring life to the story. Fr. Didier-Marie Golay’s Living on Love is a portfolio of the work of art that was the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. A vast number of images, historical information, and excerpts of various writings by Thérèse and others span just over three hundred pages, each one as captivating as the next. Artwork created by Thérèse, and her sisters appear throughout, adding dimension to each of their personalities and highlighting the depth of their love for each other. Fr. Golay’s arrangement of photo and text convey well how the facets of her ‘little way’ were refined in love and suffering.

On these pages we see that this theme of love and suffering was a constant in the life of Thérèse. In the face of her wet nurse, we see the ‘mother’ this baby was given by her own mother, Zélie, due to her own inability to nurse her as an infant. The alternative would’ve probably meant death for Thèrése. This wasn’t an option for a mother who had already lost four babies. The resulting separation anxiety suffered by this last of the Martin children was the tradeoff. Further on, a painting of the five distraught sisters kneeling at the deathbed of their mother and the words of Thérèse describing the anxiety this event caused her.

This youngest daughter was already well versed in offering ‘practices’ of sacrifice to Jesus, as taught in loving care by her older sisters Marie, Pauline, Léonie, and Céline. They, alongside their father Louis, would now give to each other what they could offer of themselves to relieve the void created with the death of Zélie. Louis would now described by his daughters as being fun and engaging in their time together. The girls stepped in to fill the roles mother, teacher, and caretakers of their youngest sibling and the duties of the home. Many beautiful photo memories continue, balancing the written details of their everyday life. Several sidebars give insight into the strengths and struggles of the siblings, as well as more details of their trips to Paris and Rome. A lovely painting and mosaic depict the miracle of her being healed when she saw Our Blessed Mother smile at her. There are also lovely sentiments and images here concerning the saint’s reception of First Holy Communion.

Here, Pauline made her profession in Carmel, and would be followed eventually by three of the Martin sisters. Thérèse received a completely life changing grace at Christmas when she was fourteen, and the desire already present for Carmel only increased in intensity. The abundance of photographs, drawings, and paintings of the Carmelites at work and recreation is incredible. Also included are many pictures of areas inside the buildings and chapel, as well as the grounds. Much more information on her spiritual children, fellow religious, and events in her life, as well as her writings, are included in the many sidebars rounding out these pages. It was in these last nine years of life as a Carmelite, consumed with the spiritual fire of Charity and tremendous bodily suffering of Tuberculosis, her little way was perfected. 

Fr. Golay has presented well Thérèse’s journey in this lovely book. She was surrounded with a loving family in a beautiful home, with all of her physical needs met, firmly grounded in her faith, and yet- not a one of us escapes the troubles of this exile. The wonderful foundation of grace laid by God in her soul met with the trials and temptations similar to those we all experience. Events from her childhood shaped her in ways that made life a big struggle at times. She learned early on that her own feelings didn’t matter much, and to really trust in Jesus meant to live the Gospel with the simple love and trusting heart of a child. The continual practice of her little way prepared her well for the long battle of spiritual darkness that occurred as her body was tortured to death by tuberculosis.  In her last breath she offered only words of love to her God. May this collection of her life inspire us to follow her example to live on love. 

Fr Golay’s book is published by Ignatius Press. Go here.