SHIRT OF FLAME, by Heather King
I discovered author Heather King in a recent issue of the monthly liturgical guide, “Magnificat,” and, drawn by her surprisingly candid style, unearthed her blog, “Shirt of Flame,” which is how I came to be another of her multifarious “regulars.” So today I purchased the Kindle Edition of Heather’s latest book of the same name – my first e-book!
“Shirt of Flame” reveals the sentiments of Heather’s year long spiritual walk with St. Therese of Lisieux. Each of its twelve gripping chapters represent a month in her journey by way of compelling, selected quotes from the French Carmelite nun’s 1897 memoir, “Story of a Soul.”
I read, “Story of a Soul” in the early stages of my own faith journey, and have since regarded the beloved Therese as a sweet, childlike flower whose vocation was love. But as we learn when a spiritual book reappears on our path, it might speak in a completely different voice, given the grace God affords us to understand. “Shirt of Flame” shifts us to a far deeper view of St. Therese by highlighting some of the most stunning of her writings, which might leave us wondering, ‘how did I miss that?’
Just when we think we’ve surrendered all to the Heart of Christ, Heather shows us what the surrender of a real saint looks like:
“Anyone who labors under the misapprehension that the “Little Flower” was soft or sentimental has never pondered this:
`Like You, my Beloved Bridegroom, I would like to be scourged and crucified. . . . I would like to die by being skinned alive like St. Bartholomew. . . . Like St. John, I would like to be plunged into boiling oil. . . . With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, I would like to present my neck to the sword, and like Joan of Arc, my dear sister, I would like to be burned at the stake, murmuring your name, Jesus.”‘ [SS, p. 215] King, Heather (2011-09-24). Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux (Kindle Locations 1479-1484). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.
As each chapter ends, Heather offers a prayer that moves us to speak interminably with God about what we need most…Him. Like her spiritual writings, Heather’s prayers are exceptional; prayers we believe God is happy to hear and happy to answer.
As I read the last sentence of the Appendix: “OCTOBER 19, 1997: Therese is declared a Doctor of the Church by Rome,” a warmth coursed through me as I realized today was October 19, and long after I turned off my laptop, the feeling remained that Therese was with me.