St. Therese on Purgatory


I am working on a piece on The Shrine, which I will have up before bed tonight or by tomorrow morning. In the meantime I came across this lovely piece on St. Therese and purgatory. I am not familiar with the author, so I have no comment on her blog site or the book she wrote, but this piece is very nice.

I started today with adding links at right to “Patron Saints.” I have had a lot of help on my pilgrim way – and I figured it would be nice to have some ready links to some of those from the other side who have helped me and walked with me.

In 1997, I prayed a Novena to The Little Flower (for non-Catholics here, that is an affectionate nickname for St. Therese). I promised her if my intention was granted, I would plant two rose bushes on either side of my front door. After a couple of days, I felt bad about that rather crabbed and presumptuous approach. So I told her I would get the rose bushes and plant them immediately – and that she should dispose of my intentions as she saw best, for I know my heavenly friends always want our good – and that I would embrace whatever came of it as coming from God.

I had dug a bit more than a foot down to place the one that would be to the right of the doorstep when my trowel snagged on something. I gently eased the dirt away to see what it was. It was a Brown Scapular – the one with the image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on it – the type of scapular Our Lady of Fatima recommended we wear. St. Therese was a Carmelite Nun. I regarded it as one of those little caresses heaven sometimes sends. For years, I was very possessive about it. But then I came to a time when I really thought hard about being attached to things. So what I did was, any time someone gave me a new Brown Scapular, I took it as a sign that someone else needed one – and I would give away the one that I was wearing and put on the new one. I am on my fourth or fifth now.

Now, Our Lady made several promises to all who wear the Brown Scapular…and I think I should comment on it, for I find too often people like to make magic totems of Sacramentals as if they were ‘power-ups’ in a video game. Remember that a Sacramental is only a symbol. It is not the grace, itself, anymore than a picture of a person is the person, himself. What I wear around my neck beneath my shirt is a just a lovely piece of brown cloth. Ideally, it should keep me present to the promise to live the spirit of what it calls for. But unless it is spiritually draped over my heart, though I wear the cloth, I am not wearing the Brown Scapular. You must live it.

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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26 Responses to St. Therese on Purgatory

  1. Thanks for linking to my post, Charlie. I make exactly the same point about sacramentals vs magic in my book. Great story about finding the Brown Scapular. I have heard so many storied of St. Therese acting in similar ways in response to prayer.


  2. aj says:

    One of the greatest lessons learnt in my spiritual life came from St. Therese. It’s about us thinking that we most likely will pass through purgatory before we see heaven. She felt very differently because she approached the Father like a child approaches her daddy…total abandonment- total Trust. In a nutshell, if we really Trust our merciful Lord, then we’ll Trust Him to purge us here on earth before we die. And so we will see Him and live with Him immediately when we take our last breath. This has become a true paradigm shift for me, hope it’s one for you too my friends.

    Here is a little excerpt from an article by Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk:

    The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:

    You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.

    She even said that we would offend God if we didn’t trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: “Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to Purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.” Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don’t know God, who are not childlike, who don’t trust. It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who… suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away. Full article here:

    JESUS I Trust in You, help my lack of Trust!!!


    • June1 says:

      “The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment.”

      This. This right here is a huge struggle for me (and I would assume for most people). Doing just enough to squeak by and hopefully please God a little rather than try with all our might to serve Him and serve others from our hearts and not to just avoid punishment. This is profound. Thank you, aj. 🙂 I have a lot to pray about, starting with asking Jesus to make my heart more like His, a veritable refuge for HIM!


    • A summary of this article by Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk on another site is what introduced me to St. Therese’s teaching on Purgatory. Many of the texts he cites have not been published in English (the Franciscan’s translated his work from Dutch, I believe). I confirmed the veracity of the quote from Sr. Marie Philomene with the Carmelite nuns of Lisieux. The article has another quote regarding Sr. Febronie that is slightly off. I translated it directly from French to English after consultation with the Lisieux Carmel. It’s in my article that Charlie linked to and also in my book Trusting God with St. Therese, where I spend several pages talking about this teaching and what it means for us. The website of the Lisieux Carmel contains many other quotes not otherwise available in English, but you have to dig in a bit to find them


      • MM Bev says:

        Dear Connie:
        I was most interested in your quotation regarding purgatory. My copy of the book “her last conversations – St. Therese of Lisieux”, is translated from the original manuscript by John Clark, OCD. I cross referenced all the places where purgatory was mentioned in the book. She profoundly affected my life May 25, 1976. I did not choose her, she chose me, and changed my life in a way that resembles the “Wizard of Oz”. After reading her autobiography, my world changed into “color” and has remained that way. That is the only way that I can describe the experience. At that time, my brother was seeking to change orders, and was leaving to spend some time in a Carmelite Monastery in Ireland. Eventually, he took perpetual vows with the Brothers of St. John in France. He knew a great deal about St. Therese, and being in France was very familiar with the convent and area where she lived. He spent some length of time with a Carmelite sister who was dying of cancer. He gave me three very precious relics of St. Therese before he died. Two of them are First Class Relics (one being some strands of her blond hair that was cut when she entered). The third is incredibly unique. The sister he was assisting had done a great deal of work for the Carmel of Lisieux and was given three rose petals of the “September 14th Rose”, an event that happened in the infirmary very shortly before her death. He gave one of the petals to me, and it has the relic stamp of Lisieux binding the red thread affixing it. In my translation of the “Last Conversations” the rose is referred to on page 190. I could not find the reference you made regarding purgatory. Since it was translated from the original manuscript I was surprised that it could have been omitted. Thus I am grateful for the website listing which I will be able to check. I have about 17 books on St. Therese, and about the best I have read is a German woman’s book, called “The Hidden Face – A Study of St. Therese of Lisieux”. It was out of print back then and my brother took it out of the theological library in Ottawa, mailed it to me to read, and then I posted it back to him. In recent years I discovered that It is back in print in soft cover. It is written by Ida Friederike Gorres. Since he was multilingual, he read it in German, while I read it in English.

        I am so looking forward to going to the site you listed. What you have stated would be a very glaring omission, particularly since it has an affect on her doctrine regarding her “Little Way”. (I know that I have a book called “With Empty Hands” and that she certainly said that she would stand before God with empty hands.)

        Thank you so much. I look forward to returning to your blog. Mary Margaret


        • MM Bev says:

          Connie, I have just returned to your page, and realized the quote is from “Last Conversation”, which I referenced under purgatory. I may have to check further. However, you state that the information regarding purgatory was given when she was Novice Mistress. Since I have, I believe, everything that she wrote, I was hoping if you could please put on your blog what book or manuscript this information is in. (I believe what she said regarding the novices was in her autobiography.) Sorry for this addition, but because she has been my best friend (of canonized saints) since she picked me, I have an intense interest in everything about her. Thank you. mm


        • MM Bev says:

          I just clicked on the archives link, Connie. THANK YOU THANK YOU, THANK YOU, OH WOW!

          Oh Wow. OH WOW ! ! ! Oh my gracious good heavens!. I may never be seen again.
          Oh you guys! Just stop it, I’m not that awful – well, maybe a little, a smigon, sort of semi awful.


          • MM Bev, you may have everything she wrote, but not everything she said. Not everything has been translated into English yet. The quote about Sr. Marie Philomene is from the Notes from the Ordinary Process (NPPO), when the diocese was investigating Therese’s life. At the Lisieux Archives, look under the Community Page and find the info on this sister. I believe the quote is there. If you can’t find it, I’ll do some more digging to see where I got it. The second quote on Sr. Febronie is from the Notes from the Apostolic Process (NPPA) of Sr. Marie of the Angels, who was Therese’s novice mistress. These were notes taken by the Vatican investigators. So both quotes are from other sisters’ memories of what the saint said, not words written down during her life. The second quote was not on the archives site as recently as June. I had to email the nuns to ask about it. They gave me the French and discussed the English translation with me. I am sure it will be on their site eventually.


          • The quote on my site about “empty hands” is found on page 67 of LC, conversation of June 23. It does not use the word Purgatory. Mother Agnes writes, “I was telling her, ‘Alas, I’ll have nothing to offer God when die; my hands will be empty and this saddens me very much.'” Therese replies, “Well. you’re not like ‘baby’ [herself] who finds herself in the same circumstances, nevertheless. Even if I had accomplished all the works of St.
            Paul, I would still believe myself to be a ‘useless servant.’ But it is precisely this that makes up my joy, for having nothing, I shall receive everything from God.”


  3. Audie says:

    I am so thankful for all who contribute to these conversations. I am being fed just what I need, when I need it. Right now, Therese and her Little Way has helped me to put into action the next right step. Amazing. The name of the church and school I attended as a child many years ago was Little Flower. So, again, thank you.


  4. Mary Randy says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Connie Rossini’s book “Trusting God with St. Therese” was my favorite book of the year. What a gem of a book! She writes at too and I love a recent piece she wrote there:, as well as the article you linked to above. Thought you’d enjoy this one.

    St. Therese is one of my favorite saints (though I have to admit my “favorites list” is rather long). She is a saint for our times and and her “little way” of trust and love can go a “long way” in alleviating the mistrust and fears we carry in our hearts in today’s world. I know she has helped me in this area.

    Chuckled at the “power ups in a video game” comment and the picture it brought to mind 🙂


  5. Kati says:

    Well now, things are getting very interesting again. Since I’ve retired from full time work, I have been struggling somewhat with how to better organize my day in the Divine Will. I am a person who needs some structure, without being overly enslaved by it. Last week, I finally asked the Lord to help me understand his plan for this structure. Immediately after praying my request, I thought “I wonder if a third order group might help?” I chuckled interiorly and refocused on my desk when I accidentally hit a key on the keyboard that opened a page to Carmelite spirituality. Whoa! How did THAT come up? I read the entire page with fascination….wondering… Later on that day I happened to pass through my dining room and noticed the wooden sculpture of our Blessed Mother in the dining room (it’s been there for years) and noticed that she had a brown scapular draped on her arm. I also noticed, for the first time, that it had the Carmelite medal and a small cross also attached to it. I had never even noticed that before. I then whispered…OK, Lord…maybe you might want me to think about something along this line? It was in the back of my mind but it wasn’t like any great priority when I began to read this post and immediately clicked on the link at the top of the post and found myself on Connie’s blog and noticed the question, “What is Carmelite Spirituality,?” at the top of the page. I read quite a bit there and then researched confraternities, sodalities, etc. but that seemed all too far away or not quite *on the mark.*. However, all of this included far too many coincidences in a 24 hour period for it not to mean something….but I’m not quite sure what that is yet. Something else that I’ve been thinking related to this is that…I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in looking for something like this. Oh…and the Little Flower (St. Therese) is the name I chose for my Confirmation name so very many years ago. Any suggestions, anyone?


  6. Matthew says:

    Not to get picky on the theology but in your last paragraph I think you confuse Sacraments and sacramentals. Sacraments are material things that do in fact convey the grace they signify. Aside from the necessary consent to receive the Sacrament nothing about the Sacraments effect depends on us – in fact “consent’ is not necessary as long as I do nothing to block the reception. A sacramental, like the scapular, entirely depends upon us, our will, our choice.
    Sorry to be picky in this way. I have the training so the antenna go up.


    • charliej373 says:

      Thanks Matthew. I did, indeed, muddle the two and I’m glad you caught it. I like precision – and in fact think a lot of what ails us is a result of muddy, imprecise thinking. Of course, a sacramental is a symbol and not the grace itself. A consecrated Host actually IS the Body of Christ in the form of bread. Please weigh in when you see something imprecise like that.


  7. MM Bev says:

    Well, now I have three sites! I am almost (almost – part of my brain damage is classed as “Compulsive talkativeness”) speechless. The “Empty Hands” thing? Just a bit of extraneous verbage, Connie. When ever I think of Therese saying that, I think, yup and that’s me too, only it seems to me that I am also in a very deep hole, which I have dug myself. However, Jesus has very long arms so I’m not worried a bit.
    I cannot say how delighted I am to obtain this new information. I have never had access to either the NPPO or the NPPA, both of which are the testimony of others rather than Therese’s written words. All of those I have.but, but, but, but……now I’m going to have to use the kitchen timer to limit how long I spend reading.
    And, thank you Mary Randy, I’ll be on the one listed by you.
    I came home after the Sunday evening Mass a few weeks ago. On my steps was an ice cream bucket overloaded with incredibly fragrant pink roses…so many I had to split them into two bunches. One for Our Lady Mother, and one for Jesus of Divine Mercy. And believe me, I thought what’s up? On my answering machine was a message from the owner of a bookstore in Saskatchewan. I figured if she could leave me a message on Sunday night, I could call her back and did. I was trying to get a specific book on the Divine Will, which I know very little about. She had it, and in the ensuing conversation I learned that she has great familiarity with the Divine Will. Then we touched on Medjugorje. I have always longed to go, but without help now it’s impossible. Within fifteen minutes, I had committed myself to go there on a pilgrimage leaving Sept. 25th. She’s the pilgrimage guide, and I will be able to double with her and she will see that I manage alright. (I cannot possible go without a “seeing eye person”). I am lined up to travel from where I live with a couple of women who live in a small city near me. It turns out that the womanI contacted there knew my priest/monk brother as he had spent a month there two summer in a row, subbing at her parish. I will go back to her home, and spend one or two nights and then bus home at the expensive cost of an extra $13.65.
    If anyone hears a rumor that a woman in British Columbia, Canada, was shrieking and rolling all over the grass on her back lawn last night in the dark, take it with a grain of salt. I’m positive that no one would be that undignified. Margaret


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  9. E. Allison says:

    I know this is an old post, so I hope this will be seen. I have only recently found you Charlie and have been reading in earnest. God Bless you and your work! I have my own story of the intercession of St Therese, The Little Flower that I would like to share.
    I had a coworker that was one of my best friends. He was a good man, with a wife and 2 small children. But he was a smoker. He developed a tumor/lung cancer in his mid 40s and was given 6 months to live, as the tumor was inoperable since it was tightly wrapped around his pulmonary artery.
    I am a cradle Catholic. I have a rosary that has a 3rd class relic of St Therese embedded in the center piece. I began saying that rosary for the healing of my friend, with the expectation that he would survive. I do not know why I was so confident, I just was. I spend 2 hrs a day commuting back and forth to a job. I kept that rosary in the car and said it often while driving. But the cancer spread to his liver; then his bones; then his brain. After about 18 months of suffering, he finally died. I was completely distraught. I wept.
    Now, my friend was born a Catholic, but most of his life was not exactly exemplary. He was not a practicing Catholic in his final years. As I said before, he was a good man. He was devoted to his wife and 2 small children. His wife, who had also been born Catholic had left the Church for a protestant church. So, I was not sure she would have made sure he got his sacraments at the end. It was comforting to find out that he had, but I was still distraught and inconsolable. I went to St Therese. I wanted a sign. I needed to know that my friend was saved. I could not bear the thought of him being lost.
    That very day, when I got home from work, there was a single red rose on the dining room table in a small vase. Now, you should know that there hadn’t been a rose in my house in 10 years or more. My wife doesn’t like roses. I asked where the rose came from. My wife told me that my oldest son brought it home. So, I went to my oldest son (who worked at Costco at the time) and asked the same question. I was told that he had just finished his shift and was heading for the door. A woman hurried by him carrying a floral arrangement. As she passed him a rose fell out on the floor. He picked it up and tried to give it back to her. Her response was, “You keep it.”
    I continue to pray for my friend almost every day, even though it has now been about 4 years since his death. I promised him that I would never forget about him. I wasn’t always there for him through his suffering, but I will be there for him now, as long as I draw breath.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. E. Allison says:

    Thank you Nancy for your kind words. Reading back over my post, I see that I left out a key point. I have no doubt at all of the intercession of St Therese. Although he ultimately did not survive, he did last a lot longer than he was supposed to. During this extra time, I believe he was granted additional Purgatorial suffering, without which he may have been lost. I believe that St Therese obtained this favor for him as a replacement for healing I was praying for. That single red rose confirmed it for me. After all, it is salvation that matters most, not a continued existence in this life. If his Purgatorial suffering continues, he will benefit from my prayers. Otherwise, my prayers will benefit another soul. Either way is fine with me. I am content in the knowledge that my dear friend was not lost. And I hope that I can run a good race myself, and get to see him again.


  11. Joj says:

    Mmbev, It struck me when you said that you did not choose St. Therese, she chose you. I realized that I could say the same. I had lost my simple spirituality from childhood wherein I ‘knew’ Jesus loved me and would take me to heaven. Gone was this child who had begged to receive communion before my class, because I could not wait another day. Instead I had become almost Jansenist, trying to earn my way to heaven, and feeling it impossible. One day, I was looking at my bookshelf for spiritual reading and there was Story of a Soul. I looked away – I’ve read that… twice. My eyes fell on it again. No, it never spoke to me. A third time. OK I’ll read it again. I came to her Act of Oblation and I asked myself. What is a Victim of Mercy? What does she mean by that? Well, I found the answer, I made the act, and it changed my life. Thank you, St. Therese!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beckita says:

      Beautiful witness, Joj! How wise of you to read the archives. Isn’t there a wealth of beauty, grace and truth on this site?! “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joj says:

        Absolutely. I can’t get enough. Beckita – love that name! You have been here a long time. What a blessing! I had no spiritual reading for this Lent that resonated with me right now. But as with the penances, I asked God to choose it for me. He has. Here is my spiritual reading, and it is really resonating. The prophesies apply to what’s going on in my own relationship with the good Lord. Everything else gives expression to what I have long understood implicitly, but needed confirmed.

        Liked by 2 people

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