October 01, 2007

Saint Therese of Lisieux

In the Church, our appreciation for St. Therese seems a bit paradoxical.
On the one hand, we see her as an example of what it is to be a confident, trustful, loving child of God.
Also, from her mid-teens until she died young at age 24, St. Therese was a cloistered Carmelite nun who never went outside the walls of her monastery in the small town of Lisieux in France.
The paradox is that the Church relies on St. Therese as patroness of the missions.
However, this irony passes if we look closely at St. Therese’s own sense of vocation.
She had a firm sense of having received a mission from God.
In her self-awareness as one sent on mission, she was very much a twin sister to the apostle St. Paul, the first world missionary of the Christian faith.
In fact, St. Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth provided St. Therese with the insight into her own vocation.
Her vocation, which she explains in her autobiography, was simply love.
After reading St. Paul’s letter, she wrote:
I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action,
that if this love were extinguished,
the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer,
the martyrs would have shed their blood no more.
I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations,
that love is everything,
that this same love embraces every time and every place.
With that insight, St. Therese lived out her life in the enclosure of a Carmelite monastery.
There she would be a faithful little powerhouse of love that drives to action the members of the Church— including missionaries— love that sets off the bounds of all vocations, love that embraces every time and every place, every mission.
St. Therese’s sense of mission involved the confident perception that she was to teach others this little way of love.
She says in her autobiography:
The little way…
is the way of spiritual childhood….
We must do everything that is within us:
give without counting the cost,
practice the virtues at every opportunity,
conquer ourselves all the time
and prove our love by every sort of tenderness and loving attention.
In a word,
we must carry out all the good works that lie within our
out of love for God….
That is the way of childhood.
St. Therese calls it the “little way” because it always undertakes to prescribe just the next little step that needs to be taken in the present moment.
No high-reaching plans for the next day, but only the little bit that is required today, in this hour and minute— all for the love of God.
In her “little way” there is no opposition or separation between love for neighbor and love for God.
So, St. Therese lived her love for God by loving her fellow nuns in the enclosure of Carmel, putting up with them and doing every small and great kindness for the love of God.
She was a missionary inside that convent.
Inside her monastery, her own simple, loving goodness was a proclamation of the nearness of the kingdom of God in Christ.
In the Eucharist, we have not only the proclamation, but also the nearness and the REALITY of the kingdom of God.
This sacrament is Christ’s great “little way”.
Under the appearance of a little bit of bread and wine are his body and blood.
In these, he gives us all that is necessary, because he, the God who is love, gives us his real, whole self.
Through this sacrament, he makes us into his body, and he makes us into his life-giving blood for the world.
In this way, he sends us, as he sent St. Therese, as little grains of salt, humbly seasoning the smallest corners of the earth with the majesty of God’s love.


Blogger gemoftheocean said...

I've "tagged" you here

st. Therese is my favorite female saint, and the one I find hardest o emulate.

3:21 PM  

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