Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Redeemed from fire by Fire...

Shirt of Flame by Heather King
What can one book do, really? It's a compilation of pages, edited, printed, produced, shipped and read. And then set aside, placed back on the shelf, donated, recycled.

Or not...

Some books ( a rare few ) tend to embed themselves, or better yet, find a way of defining something in you that you knew was there but just couldn't put into words. They explain a feeling, a desire, a passion or a fear you can't define on your own, and you aren't sure if anyone else really would understand; they might think you're crazy.  You might just be the only one who has ever felt that way. Until you see those words on the page. And then, as Lewis says, you are not alone.

Those books, the ones that confirm us, help us to know ourselves.

Heather King's Shirt of Flame is that for me.

Heather King writes, "The way to become whole, in other words, is to become most fully ourselves - a lifelong task that paradoxically requires us to rub up against, be filed down by, cracked open by and perhaps most unexpectedly of all, loved by the very people whom we wish to serve."

The book isn't a story about St. Therese of Lisieux. The book isn't a story about Heather King. It's about the story of each of us, mine and yours.  Heather King knits together a fine thread connecting the fragile beauty of St. Therese's cloistered life with our modern day frenzied world. She introduces us her own cloister of Los Angeles and hints at ways for us to find our own. Ms. King lines up our tracing paper sketch with the original work of art, and, standing next to her, we see ourselves in this little saint.

We find that we can be all called to the 'little way of love'. It's not quite as out of reach, ephemeral, 1890's-cloister-confined as we once thought.  She has unromanticized the story of Therese, helping us to see in her our weaknesses, our immense struggles, our unanswered loves, our loneliness, and our buried desire to seek the good fire that will consume all our desires with Love.

Maybe Therese understands us after all. Maybe she has had the answer all along. Maybe that is why she is a Doctor of the Church.

Heather King writes, "The story can't be "I'm a victim" and it also can't be "I'm a hero", though in some sense you're telling of the hero's journey. What makes for an authentic personal story is that the hero is not you; the heroes are the people who put up with or helped you along the way. The star of the story is not you, the star is something greater than you. The astonishment of the story is never that the world finally recognized your genius and showered you with the love and attention you so richly deserve. The story is that a God exists who is so kind, so loving, so merciful, that he sees fit to forgive all your transgressions, wrong turns, and mistakes; a God who ministers, with infinite tenderness, to all the hurt that's been done to you and all the hurt you've done to others, and welcomes you back to the banquet table."


  1. Want to know more about St. Therese of Lisieux? Try this site: http://www.littleflower.org/abouttherese/learn/

  2. Okay I am moving to Texas TODAY!! Thank you so much, Lauren--what a lovely tribute to my book and more to the point, to St. Therese. Truly, I feel I have barely scratched the surface of her spirituality, her personality, her life...all my best to you and to all in College Station, Texas...

    1. I, of course, think Texas is already the best of the 50, but having you here would make it even better! Maybe you can come for another visit soon, God-willing!


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