A Book Review: I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean D’Elbée
by Melanie Hartshorn, Spiritual Springs Community, Fort Bend, Texas
I am a long-time subscriber to the monthly publication Magnificat. There is a daily section called “Meditation of the Day” which follows each day’s readings and never fails to give me pause. It often contains quotes from Fr. Jean D’Elbée. Recently, one of those quotes was from Fr. D’Elbée’s book, I Believe in Love, published in 1969. This book is subtitled, “A personal retreat based on the teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.” I discovered that Fr. D’Elbée is one of the world’s foremost scholars on St. Thérèse. What a coincidence, I thought to myself (since I am a Theresian, after all)! Of course, I don’t believe in coincidences but rather recognized that the Holy Spirit was moving me to delve into this book. I decided that it could be a rich source of prayer and meditation – truly a personal retreat - for me during the upcoming season of Advent 2023.
The book has an unusual format, but one that works very well to allow for progressing at one’s own pace through the ten conferences (as Fr. D’Elbée calls them). The conferences build on each other and are packed full of insights – many of which seem so simple but had never occurred to me! Excerpts from the writings of St. Thérèse are an integral part of each conference. More than a few of these quotes were familiar to me, but when placed in the context of a more complete passage and Fr. D’Elbée’s commentary, they took on much deeper meaning. I found that I could relate to St. Thérèse in a new way - as a “sister in Jesus” and not just a canonized saint who has received the title of Doctor of the Church.
The first three conferences – “Love for Love,” “Humble Confidence,” and “Unshakeable Confidence” - set the stage for all that follows. I found myself rereading each of these before I could move on (and emptied two highlighters in the process). Each conference seems more beautiful than the one before it! The Holy Spirit was blessing me with wisdom, knowledge and understanding as I prayed and meditated on each topic. Then, after completing the conference on “Eucharist,” I finally understand what St. Thérèse meant when she expressed her deepest desire to be “a victim of love” for our Lord.
In the Forward to this book, the author says that its purpose is “to help us comprehend the love of God for us and to respond to it more fully.” My faith has been deepened and enriched by Fr. D’Elbée’s spiritual insights accompanied by St. Thérèse’s wisdom and love for Jesus. It is my hope that anyone who undertakes this retreat with an open, loving heart and trusting spirit, will have the same beautiful, soul-altering, experience. All that is necessary is to believe in love!