By Brother Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC The two sacred vessels pictured on the cover of this issue, the ciborium on the left—the chalice on the right—are at the Carmelite Spiritual Center in Darien, Illinois, on loan from the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux. They are the very vessels that Therese is handling in the photograph taken by her sister Celine in November, 1896, when Therese was the community sacristan. In the photograph, Therese stands behind a table, placing hosts in the ciborium. The chalice, off to the side, is covered with a purificator cloth, prepared to receive the wine to be consecrated during the Mass. We have about 40 photographs of Therese in Carmel, either alone or with a group of sisters, all taken by her sister Celine, who came to the convent six years after Therese and who brought her photographic equipment with her. Celine also had training in painting and drawing. Her charcoal drawing, “Sister Therese as Sacristan,” based on the photograph of Therese filling the ciborium, served as an illustration in the early editions of Therese’s autobiography, Story of a Soul (see illustration above). Therese used her own considerable artistic talents to decorate a veil for the ciborium. She considered it a special privilege to care for the sacred vessels that were to contain the consecrated bread and wine. She remarked to one sister that she rejoiced in seeing her own face reflected in the ciborium as she filled it with hosts, and also in the chalice as she prepared it for the wine. Her daily work as sacristan allowed her to frequently visit Jesus in the tabernacle, whom she pictured, in accordance with the spirituality of the times, as a “prisoner” waiting to give his love in a special way to those who visited. The Divine Prisoner lived a humble, hidden life, as it were; and Therese behind the monastery grille was willing to be a prisoner of love, sharing a hidden life as well. But Therese did not want just to adore Jesus in the tabernacle or imitate him in life, she desired to be transformed by him and united to him, and this she experienced happening in the reception of Holy Communion. In Therese’s day people rarely received Holy Communion—weekly for most religious, yearly for most laity. Therese, however, sought to receive communion as often as possible. Jesus comes not to be adored at a distance, she said, but to be received into our hearts and to transform us into himself. Many Catholics did not receive communion frequently common because they did not consider themselves worthy. Therese knew that no one is really f worthy and she wrote, in a letter to her cousin who felt undeserving, “You can go without any fear to receive your only true Friend [in Communion].… What offends Him and what wounds His Heart is the lack of confidence… Your heart is made to love Jesus, to love him passionately; pray that the beautiful years of your life may not pass in illu-sionary fears. We have only the short moments of our life to love Jesus!“ This letter was shown to Pope Pius X in 1910; and he responded enthusiastically, “It’s a great joy for me. We must hurry this cause [of Therese’s canonization].” Therese’s sentiments helped the Pope decide that frequent communion should be the norm in the life of the church. He introduced Therese’s canonization process four years later calling her “the greatest saint of modern times.” Therese’s appreciation of Holy Communion had inspired her to ask her superior to allow the sisters to receive daily. The superior refused at the time, but Therese said that when she got to heaven she would change the superior’s mind. And this Therese did. Among Therese’s first miracles, according to Celine, were the transformation of the sisters into a deeper spirit of mutual charity, and the superior’s permission for the sisters to receive Holy Communion frequently. In the opening pages of Story of a Soul Therese remarked that “the nature of love is to humble oneself.” This image of God as Love, humbly stooping down to embrace and transform her became one of Therese’s most important understandings about the nature of God and the nature of the Eucharist. She contemplated God stooping down in creation, in the Incarnation, and in God’s continuing Providence, but particularly in the Eucharist Therese saw Christ lowering himself to share his divinity with her. Her sentiments embodied the prayer the priest now says mixing the water and wine before the consecration of the Mass: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” When Therese wrote the poem, The Sacristans of Carmel, she expressed senti-(continued on page 25) Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC, a DeLaSalle Christian Brother, was for many years a lecturer and spiritual director at the international Sangre de Cristo Sabbatical Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is presently serving in Kenya. He is author of Praying Our Experiences, Praying With Thérèse of Lisieux and the widely received biography of Thérèse, Everything is Grace: the Life and Way of Thérèse of Lisieux.