STURGEON BAY — It wasn’t until Sara Buscher was in her 50s that this cradle-Catholic began to really understand that God was calling her to be something more than simply a “faithful” Catholic.
“I spent my whole life trying to be self-sufficient and successful, then I read this and discovered I’d been doing it all wrong,” she said. That book was St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography, “Story of a Soul.”
Except for a questioning period in her late teens, Buscher had always attended Sunday Mass and been involved in church activities. But she said God seemed distant to her, someone to fear. Now she realizes how much God loves her and others, that he understands everyone and wants to help them in their journey.
“He won’t give up on us and nothing I can do could make him stop loving me,” Busher said.
Buscher first read the saint’s autobiography around 2005, when she had retired and moved back to Appleton with her husband. They joined the parish where she had been baptized. It might have been a bit prophetic that it happens to be called St. Thérèse Parish. A notice in the bulletin about reading “Story of a Soul” caught her eye.
Buscher said her retirement had left her at loose ends and she thought the book study would be a good way to meet other people. She also thought something written by a saint might be uninteresting and pious, but figured she could “get through it.” She did far more than that.
“From the beginning, I was captivated,” she said. “St. Thérèse (a cloistered Carmelite nun) understood things that it took me 50 years to learn — and she died when she was only 24. I raced through that book, and I wanted more.”
Buscher embraced Carmelite spirituality and set out to study St. Thérèse to learn all she could from the saint’s insights into a life lived with and for God.
“I was amazed at how affectionately she spoke of God. She set me on fire for God,” Buscher said.
During the interview, Buscher took out a copy of Psalm 139, with passages underlined that reflect St. Thérèse’s spirituality:
“All my ways lie open to you. … Before ever a word is on my tongue you know it, O Lord, through and through. … Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, too high, beyond my reach.”
So, Buscher said she learned to approach God as a child, content to rest with God as a child would with its parent.
Embracing Carmelite spirituality, which has an emphasis on contemplative prayer, drew Buscher more deeply into her own prayer life.
“Before, I had no prayer life except at Mass,” she said.
Now, her hour of prayer first thing in the morning is a priority. She always does it, no matter how early she might have to set her alarm. She uses the “Magnificat,” an abbreviated form of the breviary, as well as daily reflection books with St. Thérèse and the Blessed Virgin. Her prayer, she said, has changed.
“I never pray for a specific solution to a problem. When I’m praying for myself or others, I just ask God to draw all involved to him. I never tell God what to do. I only want to know, ‘What’s the plan and how do I fit in?’”
Buscher wanted to share what she’d learned with others who might be wounded by life’s experiences. She was especially drawn to elderly and disabled persons, and is “passionate about end-of-life issues.” She is on the board of the Euthanasia Prevention Society USA and active with the Catholic Medical Association. And she introduces people to St. Thérèse.
In those early days, when Buscher learned of a bus trip to the National Shrine of St. Thérèse, she signed up by herself, but found a lot of the members of the Third Order Carmelites on the trip who shared what they knew and had learned.
“On the way back, I was inspired to do another book read at my parish, around 2008,” Buscher said. She organized it as a community read, with study questions. The answers were written up and published in the bulletin.
Then in 2015-16, Buscher and her husband moved to Door County full time, and she decided not to be as active as she once was in parish organizations and activities. She wanted to spend time with her husband.
However, last fall, she organized another book study of “Story of a Soul,” offering it through the adult faith formation program at St. Joseph Parish in Sturgeon Bay. The group meets once a month and discusses one chapter at a time, following Buscher’s study questions.
Through that same faith formation group, Buscher has organized a bus trip to the National Shrine of St. Thérèse near Chicago to take place this September. Both projects flow from Buscher’s desire to introduce others to the Carmelite way of drawing closer to God, of living the “spiritual childhood” of St. Thérèse. It’s the lens through which she views her Catholic faith. [vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Sara Buscher
Parish: Corpus Christi, Sturgeon Bay
Favorite saint: Thérèse of Lisieux
Words to live by: “I was helpless, so God saved me.” (Ps 116:6b)[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]