Recently in Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face Category

Wonders too many to be counted

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Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, Parents of Saint Thérèse
Beatified 4 Years Ago Today


One Year Ago Today

It is exactly one year ago today that, together with my good friend, Father John H., I made my way to the residence of the Bishop of Meath in Mullingar to inquire about moving the monastery here to Ireland. Back in Tulsa, we had prayed perseveringly to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, confident that she would intervene in our search for a suitable permanent home.

Theresian Dates

My appointment with the Bishop of Meath was, then, on Thursday, 19 October 2011. The date did not have, in my mind, any particular associations with Saint Thérèse, but Divine Providence was smiling upon us, and at work behind the scenes. To my astonishment I discovered later on that same day, after meeting with His Lordship, that October 19th is the anniversary of Saint Thérèse being proclaimed the 33rd Doctor of the Church, as well as the anniversary of the beatification of her parents, Louis and Zélie Martin.

Little Signs

Little signs such as these give me heart and encourage me to go on. The Silverstream property was dedicated to Saint Thérèse in 1946 when the Order of Saint John of God purchased it from the Preston family. There are no coincidences in these things.

Join with us today in praying to Saint Thérèse -- the Little Flower, as the Irish love to call her. Ask her to obtain for us all that is necessary to the fulfillment of our mission.

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O glorious Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
and of the Holy Face
,
cherished child of the Father,
virgin espoused to the Son,
humble Doctor instructed by the Holy Ghost,
We greet thee with joy
and approach thee with confidence.

The wonders wrought by thy intercession
are too many to be counted;
thou showest thyself the friend and advocate
of all who have recourse to thee in time of need.
We rely on thy childlike power over the Father's Heart.

From the thy place in heaven
thou seest our afflictions
and, by a merciful disposition of Providence,
thou sendest roses of pity to those who seek thy help.

There is no mIsery of body or of soul
to which thou dost not respond with love.
Thou who didst seek to be love in the heart of the Church,
while still on earth,
art forever love in the heart of the Church
from the place that is thine in Heaven.

Descend to us, Saint Thérèse.
Hasten to us who are waiting for a rose from heaven,
a sign of thy compassion, a pledge of thy assistance.
Who hath not heard of thy errands of love
in every place and on every continent?
Walk with us, Saint Thérèse,
lest we wander from thy little way.

Change, we pray thee, our timid and faltering confidence,
into a confidence that is limitless and bold,
that by offering ourselves, as thou didst offer thyself,
to the mystery of Merciful Love,
our confidence may be perfected, as was thine,
in the contemplation of the holy and adorable Face of Jesus:
thine own heart's treasure in this valley of tears,
and thine all-surpassing joy
in the brightness of the heavenly fatherland.
Amen.

Thérèse Sent Us Roses

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Surprise

We completed our novena to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face today. All during the novena I was expecting to receive roses, a sign of Saint Thérèse's loving attention to one's prayer. No roses came . . . until this morning: not cut roses, but two rose bushes, complete with thorns, to be planted here in our monastery garden. I find this extraordinary. The Little Flower sent us, not cut roses destined to wilt and die, but two roses bushes destined to take root, and grow, and blossom again and again. Is this not a wonderful affirmation of our calling to take root here, to put forth shoots, and to blossom? Once again, Saint Thérèse has surprised and delighted me.

O glorious Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
and of the Holy Face,
cherished child of the Father,
virgin espoused to the Son,
humble Doctor instructed by the Holy Ghost,
We greet thee with joy
and approach thee with confidence.

The wonders wrought by thy intercession
are too many to be counted;
thou showest thyself the friend and advocate
of all who have recourse to thee in time of need.
We rely on thy childlike power over the Father's Heart.

From the thy place in heaven
thou seest our afflictions
and, by a merciful disposition of Providence,
thou sendest roses of pity to those who seek thy help.

There is no mIsery of body or of soul
to which thou dost not respond with love.
Thou who didst seek to be love in the heart of the Church,
while still on earth,
art forever love in the heart of the Church
from the place that is thine in Heaven.

Descend to us, Saint Thérèse.
Hasten to us who are waiting for a rose from heaven,
a sign of thy compassion, a pledge of thy assistance.
Who hath not heard of thy errands of love
in every place and on every continent?
Walk with us, Saint Thérèse,
lest we wander from thy little way.

Change, we pray thee, our timid and faltering confidence,
into a confidence that is limitless and bold,
that by offering ourselves, as thou didst offer thyself,
to the mystery of Merciful Love,
our confidence may be perfected, as was thine,
in the contemplation of the holy and adorable Face of Jesus:
thine own heart's treasure in this valley of tears,
and thine all-surpassing joy
in the brightness of the heavenly fatherland.
Amen.

Thérèse

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La Petite Thérèse

Thérèse is so often referred to as “little,” that we risk not seeing the breadth and depth that are really characteristic of her, and the immensity of her desires. Paradoxically, there is nothing small, nothing narrow in this painfully sensitive middle-class girl who, at fifteen years of age, closed herself up in Carmel with a certain number of saints, a certain number of women not altogether right in the head, her own sisters, and one rather unusual prioress. Once Thérèse opened herself to the workings of the Holy Spirit, her heart began to expand -- even in the midst of real emotional, spiritual, and physical sufferings, -- until it reached the dazzling dimensions of the charity of Christ.

Spouse of Christ and Mother of Souls

In the beginning of her journey, Thérèse recognized herself in the classic lines of every feminine vocation: “To be your spouse, O Jesus, to be a Carmelite, to be, by virtue of my union with you, the mother of souls, this ought to be enough for me . . . but it is not so . . . I feel other vocations within myself . . . O my Jesus! To all these crazy aspirations of mine what will you reply? Today, you want to fulfill other desires of mine bigger than the universe.”

Immense Desires

The liturgy, rather audaciously, applies the prophecy of Isaiah to Thérèse. “Rejoice with Jerusalem” becomes “Rejoice with Thérèse and be glad because of her, all you who love her” (Is 66:10). The passion of Thérèse was to love and to be loved. And love was given her. It rushed upon her like a river, invaded her like an overflowing torrent. She dared to open herself to immense desires, and God gave to her with immensity.

My Heaven Will Be Spent on Earth

Many of us have loved Thérèse for a long time, loved her as a sister, a friend very close to us, someone capable of understanding both the little things that make up our day to day lives and the big things that weigh heavily on us at certain moments, testing our faith in love and causing hope’s little flame to flicker. We are all, I think, fond of repeating that promise of hers that has been translated into countless languages, and rightly so: “If the good God grants my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth even until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.”

Into Weakness

If we are to share in the spiritual experience of Thérèse, it will not be by the hammer blows of a steel willpower, nor by dint of effort and striving, nor by a glorious record of victories. It is not by going up but rather by going down, by descending into the last holdouts of our weakness, into the emptiness of a terrible and magnificent poverty, that we will find ourselves with Thérèse in the peace of the weaned child on its mother’s lap (Ps 130:2).

Where the Father Waits

There, in an intimacy open to the little, the broken, and the poor, and closed to everyone else, the Father surprises the friends of Thérèse with the mysteries of the kingdom hidden from the learned and the clever, and revealed to children (Lk 10:21). God waits for us, not on the summits of perfection with crown in hand to reward what we, of ourselves, may have done. He waits for us rather with all the tenderness of His motherly heart, exactly where we fall weak, bruised, humiliated, and reduced to powerlessness. Yes, we fall, but only to discover with amazement that it is into the bosom of the Father. There, in the gentleness of the Spirit, the Son waits to welcome us, saying, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

Believe in Love

On the lips of Thérèse, this word -- “Father” -- learned from the lips of Jesus, was, in some way, reinvented for our times. On the lips of Thérèse, the word “Father” was rescued from the bland formulas of a piety past its expiration date, to be pronounced for our world and for our time with the radical newness of the Gospel. If we learn anything at all from this twenty-four year old Doctor of the Church, let it be this: to dare to say “Father” in the breath of the Holy Spirit, to dare to call God “Father” with the boldness of the little, the poor, and the half crazy, a boldness that shocks the custodians of a religion of convention and routine to speak the Gospel again to those who, hoping against all hope, believe in Love.

With Thérèse, Believe in Love

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The Saints Choose Their Friends

Many years ago, while reading the biography of Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, the founder of the Benedictine abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, I came upon a line that so struck me that I have never forgotten it. Père Muard said something like this: "It is not we who choose this saint or that to be our friend; it is, rather, the saints who choose those whom they wish to befriend. The saints choose us, and this, in the light of God's wisdom and providence."

The Object of Her Affection

We, poor, struggling sons of Saint Benedict, have not, then, to ask why we have chosen Saint Thérèse among our special friends in heaven. We have, instead, to ask why Saint Thérèse has, in fact, chosen us as the object of her attention and affection. The answer is written, I think, in the mysterious journal of God's gracious Providence. There are, nonetheless, a few indications that lift a corner of the veil on God's hidden designs, and they are worth pondering.

To Believe in Love

The first of these has to do with the fundamental grace of Saint Thérèse: it is a holy boldness. It is the audacity that comes from the absolute certainty of being loved. In us, just as we are, Thérèse sees men called to believe that we are loved. She sees men called to hope even in the face of things that threaten to drag us down into the pit of despair. The work of Saint Thérèse is precisely this: to help souls, especially those marked by some kind of suffering -- Love's signature -- to believe that they are loved, and never to lose hope. "We know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16).

The Holy Face

Out of this faith in the Love of God grows an immense confidence, a boldness in the Holy Ghost that authorizes even the weakest and most miserable soul to see in the Child Jesus, a brother; and in the Holy Face of the suffering Jesus, the traits of a beloved friend, the gaze of the Divine Bridegroom. This identification with the Child Jesus and, even more, with the adorable Face of the Suffering Jesus, makes the friends of Thérèse bold and full of confidence in their relationship with the Father.

For us who are called to be Benedictine Adorers, the Face of Jesus, the Child and the Immolated Lamb, is hidden and, at the same time, revealed in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It is by tarrying before Our Lord's Eucharistic Face that we begin to see ourselves as the Father sees us. "Since you loved me so much," says Thérèse in one of her prayers to the Father, "I beg you to look upon me only through the Face of Jesus."

Priests

The second reason why Thérèse may have chosen us as the object of her affection and attention has to do with her zeal for the sanctification of priests. Thérèse had no illusions about the virtues of the clergy; as a fourteen year old girl on pilgrimage to Rome she witnessed firsthand the the weaknesses and compromises of the priests surrounding her without, however, becoming scandalized or jaded by them.

She writes in her autobiography:

Having never lived close to [priests], I was not able to understand the principal aim of the Reform of Carmel. To pray for sinners attracted me, but to pray for the souls of priests whom I believed to be as pure as crystal seemed puzzling to me.
I understood my vocation in Italy and that's not going too far in search of such useful knowledge. I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men. If holy priests whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the "salt of the earth," show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn't Jesus say too, "if the salt loses its savour, wherewith will it be salted?"

Later on, when, in the course of the examination before her profession, Thérèse was asked why she had come to Carmel, she said, "I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests."

When Love Enters In

In us, brothers, Thérèse sees men with great aspirations, men with hearts made to love, men with love to give in adoration and in reparation, men ready to father souls, with a special tenderness for priests caught in the webs of sin and vice. "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14). Thérèse, in her own way, says to each of us that our limitations -- be they physical, psychological, or moral -- are not an impediment to love, but a way to love. Every wound of ours, every chink in the armour of our self-styled virtue, is an opening to Love, a portal through which Divine Love penetrates into places within us that would, were we not so wounded, remain sealed off to Love.

Thérèse says that the calling we have received is to be love, love in the heart of the Church, a love that adores, a love that makes reparation, a love that keeps Love company in the Sacrament of Love.

She tells us not to give in to discouragement. She invites us to be confident and to go forward, trusting that the Lord Himself, like a mighty warrior, is with us and has taken up our cause or, rather, made His cause our cause.

Thérèse Has Things in Hand

One year ago, in October 2011, we made a novena to Saint Thérèse, asking her to find us a house and property suitable for the development of our monastic community. She led us to Silverstream, where stands a little church built and dedicated to her in 1952. Saint Thérèse accompanied us and delivered us safely to the house the Lord had reserved for us. She has taken things in hand. She is working with us, and for us, that we might purchase and fully renovate Silverstream Priory. Here, at last, we are confident that our vocation will take root and begin to flourish. Saint Thérèse identifies with what we are doing here because it is a Work of Love and of reparation to Love, in the heart of the Church.

My Friendship With Thérèse

If I may speak personally for a moment, allow me to say that Thérèse has known me and followed me around for a very long time, for many years. There exists between us one of those life-long friendships capable of weathering every storm, of enduring long periods of silence, and of responding at a minute's notice to a cry for help.

The Fire of Love

It seems to me that we are being invited to work with Saint Thérèse for the souls of priests. Our aim is to give back to priests the taste for Love, so that they will burn with Love and spread the fire of Love to those around them and to the whole Church.

Before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus

This a great Work, and not a little daunting, but our role in it is very simple. We are to adore for those who do not adore, and to represent our brother priests -- especially the weakest among them, and those who have fallen from their priestly dignity -- before the Eucharistic, the merciful, the compassionate Face of Jesus. Our Lord waits in His tabernacles for those with whom He chose to share the glory of His priesthood to return to Him, and to tarry in His presence.

Nothing to Fear

If we remain faithful to this mission of ours, we will have nothing to fear. We have only to go forward in the certainty that we are immensely loved and that nothing will be able to snatch us away from the Love that possesses us, and that has marked us with Love's Seal.

Love: Our Beginning and Our End

Saint Benedict says, in Chapter Seven of the Holy Rule, that at the summit -- or the bottom -- of the twelve steps of the ladder of humility we will arrive at that love of God, which, being perfect, drives out all fear. The summit of Benedictine life is a holy freedom in love; it is the security of the child who knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is unconditionally loved; that if he falls, Love will pick him up again; that if he hurts himself, Love will heal his bruises and bind up his wounds; that if he is obstinate and slow to understand, Love will wait for Him with an inexhaustible patience; and that if he trusts his life to Love, he will not be disappointed in his hope. To all of this, to the entire teaching of Saint Benedict's Little Rule for Beginners, Saint Thérèse says a heartfelt "Amen," for in it she recognizes her own Little Way. Let us follow it without fear, for it begins in Love and leads to Love. Amen.

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Dear readers of Vultus Christi, please join with us in seeking the intercession of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face during this novena. We began the novena today after Holy Mass; it will end on 1 October, the feast of Saint Thérèse.

O glorious Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
and of the Holy Face,
cherished child of the Father,
virgin espoused to the Son,
humble Doctor instructed by the Holy Ghost,
We greet thee with joy
and approach thee with confidence.

The wonders wrought by thy intercession
are too many to be counted;
thou showest thyself the friend and advocate
of all who have recourse to thee in time of need.
We rely on thy childlike power over the Father's Heart.

From thy place in heaven
thou seest our afflictions
and, by a merciful disposition of Providence,
thou sendest roses of pity to those who seek thy help.

There is no mIsery of body or of soul
to which thou dost not respond with love.
Thou who didst seek to be love in the heart of the Church,
while still on earth,
art forever love in the heart of the Church
from the place that is thine in Heaven.

Descend to us, Saint Thérèse.
Hasten to us who are waiting for a rose from heaven,
a sign of thy compassion, a pledge of thy assistance.
Who hath not heard of thy errands of love
in every place and on every continent?
Walk with us, Saint Thérèse,
lest we wander from thy little way.

Change, we pray thee, our timid and faltering confidence,
into a confidence that is limitless and bold,
that by offering ourselves, as thou didst offer thyself,
to the mystery of Merciful Love,
our confidence may be perfected, as was thine,
in the contemplation of the holy and adorable Face of Jesus:
thine own heart's treasure in this valley of tears,
and thine all-surpassing joy
in the brightness of the heavenly fatherland.
Amen.

Resplendens Stella

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Here is a translation of the message our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI sent to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Mons. Jesús Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the convent of Saint Joseph in Avila and the beginning of the Carmelite Reform. The subtitles and commentary in italics are my own. I dedicate my own little commentary to my dear friend here in Ireland, Father John of Jesus Hogan, a true son of Saint Teresa.

To the Venerable Brother

Monsignor Jesus GARCIA BURILLO
Bishop of Avila

What is a Saint?

1. Resplendens stella. "A star that would give of itself great splendor" (Book of Life, 32, 11). With these words the Lord encouraged Saint Teresa of Jesus to found in Avila the convent of Saint Joseph, beginning of the reform of Carmel, whose 450th anniversary will be observed next August 24. On the occasion of this happy circumstance, I wish to unite myself to the joy of the beloved Avila diocese, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, of the People of God on pilgrimage in Spain and of all those in the universal Church who have found in Teresian spirituality a sure light to discover that man obtains the true renewal of life through Christ. Enamored of the Lord, this illustrious woman wished to please Him in everything. In fact, a saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate his soul, to act through his person, He being the real protagonist of all their actions and desires, who inspires every initiative and sustains every silence.

"A saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate his soul." Christ alone is the life of the soul. Saint Teresa of Jesus is not a private possession of Carmel, nor is she a treasure held in reserve for a select few; she is a gift to the whole Church Catholic. Her message brings fire and light to Benedictines as much as to her own Carmelite sons and daughters. Blessed Abbot Marmion, for example, quotes Saint Teresa often and refers to her teaching. I find it especially significant that the Holy Father writes that Christ sustains every silence in the life of His saints. A silence sustained by Christ cannot but be the silence created by the Word, the silence of unitive love, the silence of adoration, and the silence of repose in the bosom of the Father.

The Friendship of Christ

2. To let oneself be led by Christ in this way is possible only for one who has an intense life of prayer. In the words of the Saint of Avila, this consists of "friendship, being very often alone with Him whom we know loves us" (Book of Life 8, 5). The reform of Carmel, whose anniversary fills us with inner joy, was born of prayer and tends to prayer. On promoting a radical return to the original Rule, moving away from the mitigated Rule, Saint Teresa of Jesus wished to foster a way of life that favored a personal encounter with the Lord, for which it is necessary "to be in solitude and to gaze at Him within oneself, and not to be surprised by such a good guest" (Way of Perfection 28, 2). The convent of Saint Joseph was born precisely so that her daughters would have the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him.

The friendship of Christ is a theme dear to the heart of Pope Benedict XVI. He returns to it again and again. For this friendship to develop there must be not only silence, but also solitude. Monastic life in all its expressions is ordered to the "heart-to-heart and face-to-face" encounter with Christ. All monastic life is "born of prayer and tends to prayer." For the Carmelite, the privileged form of this prayer will be oraçion; for the Benedictine it will be the choral celebration of the Divine Office, and lectio divina, and in Silverstream Priory, adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In every monastery the focus must be on creating and sustaining "the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him."

Strong Friends of God

3. Saint Teresa proposed a new way of being a Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were "harsh times" (Book of Life 33, 5). And in such times, said this Teacher of the spirit, it is necessary "to be strong friends of God to support the weak" (Ibid., 15, 5). And she insisted eloquently: "The world is burning, they want to sentence Christ again, they want to knock down his Church. No, my Sisters, it is not the time to treat with God matters of little importance"! (Way of Perfection 1, 5). Is not this luminous and challenging reflection, made more than four centuries ago by the mystic Saint, familiar to us in the circumstance in which we are living?

These too are harsh times for Christ and for His Church, especially here in Ireland. Strong friends of God are indeed needed to support the weak; the wonder of God's condescending mercy is, however, that he chooses his strongest friends among the weakest of all. The grace of Christ is deployed in weakness, and the strength of Christ shines most brightly in those marked by infirmity and failure in the eyes of the world.

Genuine Personal and Ecclesial Reform

The ultimate end of the Teresian Reform and of the creation of new convents, in the midst of a world lacking in spiritual values, was to protect with prayer the apostolic task; to propose a way of evangelical life that would be a model for those seeking the way of perfection, stemming from the conviction that all genuine personal and ecclesial reform is affected by reproducing increasingly in ourselves the "way" of Christ (cf. Galatians 4:19). The Saint and her daughters had no other commitment. Neither did her Carmelite sons, who did no more than try "to advance in all the virtues" (Book of Life 31, 18). In this connection, Teresa wrote: Our Lord "appreciates more a soul won, through his mercy, by our industry and prayer than all the services we can render Him" (Book of the Foundations, 1, 7). In face of forgetfulness of God the Holy Doctor encouraged praying communities, which with their prayer protect those proclaiming the Name of Christ everywhere, supplicating for the needs of the Church, and taking to the Savior's heart the clamor of all peoples.

The agenda promoted by the ACP in Ireland, and by similar groups elsewhere, is fatally flawed in its principles, its means, and its goals. The true reformers of the Church begin with the reform of themselves in prayer and in the cultivation of the virtues. Reform is the fruit of prayer, of suffering, and of union with the oblation of Christ, Priest and Victim, by whose intercession the Holy Spirit falls anew upon the Church to purify her in the living flame of love. Curiously, the method and discourse of the ACP bears all the marks of the Americanist movement condemned by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.

The Heart of the Apostolate

4. Today also, as in the 16th century, amid rapid transformations, it is necessary that confident prayer be at the heart of the apostolate, so that the message of the Redeemer Jesus Christ will resound with crystal clarity and forceful dynamism. It is urgent that the Word of life vibrate harmoniously in souls, with sonorous and attractive notes.

"In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love" wrote Saint Teresa's worthiest daughter, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Dom Chautard, O.C.S.O., writing of the same reality, called it The Soul of the Apostolate. Without confident prayer no one can do anything of enduring value. In his Prologue to the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict enjoins his monks to begin every good work with a most instant prayer. Persevering and humble prayer is the wellspring of apostolic fecundity.

Christ: The Only Way to Attain the Glory of God

In this passionate task, the example of Teresa of Avila is of great help to us. We can affirm that, in her time, the Saint evangelized without lukewarmness , with ardor that was never extinguished, with methods that were far removed from inertia, with expressions radiant all around with light. This keeps all its freshness in the present circumstance, centered also following the dictate of the Avila mystic, on contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ as the only way to attain the glory of God (cf. Book of Life 22, 1; The Abodes [Las Moradas] 6, 7). Thus genuine families will be able to be formed, which discover in the Gospel the fire of their abode, living and united Christian communities, cemented on Christ as their cornerstone and thirsting for a life of fraternal and generous service. Also to be desired is that incessant prayer promote the urgent cultivation of vocational pastoral care, stressing particularly the beauty of consecrated life, which must be properly supported as the treasure that it is of the Church, as torrent of Graces, both in its active as well as in its contemplative dimension.

"Contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ is the only way to attain the glory of God." This was the teaching of Saint Paul before it became that of Saint Teresa: "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 4:6). This too is the teaching of the whole Benedictine tradition beginning with Saint Benedict and Saint Gregory, and continuing through Saint Anselm, Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude and a host of other saints and mystics including Ireland's own Blessed Columba Marmion.

Friends of the Master, Putting Nothing Before His Love

The strength of Christ will also lead to redoubling initiatives so that the people of God recover their vigor in the only way possible: making room in our interior for the sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Philippians 2, 5), seeking in every circumstance a radical living of his Gospel. This means, above all, to allow the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to configure us with Him. It also means accepting his mandate in everything, and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility in conduct, giving up the superfluous, not wronging others, acting with simplicity and lowliness of heart. Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and living, as Teresa of Jesus, in filial obedience to our Holy Mother the Church.

Our thoroughly Benedictine Pope could not resist quoting Saint Benedict here: "Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope." The wisdom of the saints cannot be divided into closed academies. The friends of the Master are also friends among themselves, humbly receiving a diversity of gifts from the Lord, and sharing His gifts across time, and place, language, and culture. Saint Teresa emphasized filial obedience to the Church; any movement of reform that does not bear the mark of filial obedience to the Church comes not from the Spirit of God but from the spirits of darkness and confusion who ceaselessly incite men to rebelliousness, pride, and disobedience.

Totally to Jesus, Only to Jesus and Always to Jesus

5. We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila. Taking up her beautiful legacy, at this moment of history, the Pope calls all the members of that particular Church, but in an intimate way young people, to take seriously the common vocation to sanctity. Following in Teresa of Jesus' footprints, allow me to say to those who have the future before them: aspire also to belong totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus. Fear not to tell Our Lord as she did: "I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?" (Poem 2). And I ask Him to enable you to respond to his calls illumined by divine grace, with "determined determination," to offer the "little" that is in you, trusting that God never abandons those who leave everything for His glory (cf. Way of Perfection 21, 2; 1, 2).

The Holy Father provides young people with the perfect prayer of vocational discernment: "I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?" One who makes this prayer sincerely will aspire to belong "totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus." In much contemporary promotional material for religious vocations it is precisely this that is conspicuously absent: "totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus."

The Most Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph

6. Saint Teresa knew how to honor the Most Holy Virgin with great devotion, whom she invoked under the sweet name of Carmel. I place under her maternal protection the apostolic endeavors of the Church in Avila so that, rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit, she will find the appropriate ways to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and courage. May Mary, Star of evangelization, and her chaste spouse Saint Joseph intercede so that the "star" that the Lord lighted in the universe of the Church with the Teresian reform, will continue to radiate the great brilliance of the love and truth of Christ to all men.

Just as the Word of God became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and under the protection of Saint Joseph, so too will the rejuvenation of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, take place by the Holy Spirit, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and under the protection of Saint Joseph. Wheresover the Blessed Virgin Mary is present, there one will find newness of life, and a shining star to guide one in the darkness of the night.

With this yearning, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I send you this message, which I pray you to make known to the flock entrusted to your pastoral vigilance, and very especially to the beloved Discalced Carmelites of the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, that they may perpetuate in time the spirit of their Founder, and of whose fervent prayer for the Successor of Peter I have grateful certainty. To them, to you and to all the faithful of Avila I impart with affection the Apostolic Blessing, pledge of copious heavenly favors.

Vatican, July 16, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Gratitude

I am profoundly grateful to Our Lord for bringing me to such a beautiful place on His earth. The view of the Irish Sea in the distance lifts the heart to God. The entire property was dedicated to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus by the Brothers of Saint of John of God in 1940. She has watched over it, kept it for us, and led us to it. We ask her now to obtain the funds necessary to pass from a lease to purchase. This means raising 600,000 Euros. Might there not be six benefactors willing to offer 100,000 Euros each?

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In the Radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus

The monastery and property are destined to become a place of beauty, silence, healing, and peace, not only for the monastic community, but especially for the priests from near and far who will make their way here in search of the Face of Christ. The splendour of Our Lord's Eucharistic Face radiates over the entire property.

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Saint Thérèse

Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus in the little monastic church of Silverstream Priory, long dedicated to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus will be, without any doubt, pleasing to The Little Flower who wrote:

Divine Jesus, here truly is the ultimate limit of thy love; after having made visible to feeble creatures thy adorable Face, the brightness of which even the seraphim cannot bear, thou wishest to hide it beneath a veil even thicker than that of human nature . . . but Jesus, I see the splendour of Thy countenance radiant in the Host.

Silverstream Priory, under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle and Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, is a place of great natural beauty. The radiance of Our Lord's Eucharistic Face, contemplated and adored here, will make it a place of supernatural beauty as well. Where there is beauty, there is healing, because all created beauty here below, that of earth, and sea, and sky, and stars, suggests that, behind it all and before it all, there is an Uncreated Beauty who yearns to show us His Face.

Sufficit tibi gratia mea

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Sexagesima Sunday
12 February 2012

The Introit

Today's Mass opens with a great cry asking God to wake up. The prayer is one of a people that feels forgotten, of a people that fears being rejected. God seems to be asleep, or far away, or on holiday , or occupied with other things. "Why turnest Thou Thy face away, and forgettest our trouble?" When God looks away, dreadful things happen: we fall low, so very low that our belly cleaves to the earth.

The psalmist is expressing what he, from his perspective, feels. He is doing what we so often do in our relationship with others. We blame the other person for the very thing that we ourselves are doing. It is not, in fact, God who needs the wake-up call. We do. It is not God who has forgotten us but, rather, we who have forgotten God. It is not God who has turned His face away from us, but we who have turned our faces away from Him. It is not God who would cast us off, but we who would throw off the yoke that binds us to Him.

Honest Prayer

It is perfectly right that we should express ourselves honestly to God in prayer, even if this means asking questions, railing against Him, and bemoaning the disgust we may, at times, feel against ourselves, against others, and against life in general. The entire Psalter teaches us to do this. At the same time, the very act of praying honestly, of "getting it all out" in the presence of God, softens our hearts, changes them, and allows us to begin to see things from God's perspective, which, if we persevere in prayer, we are obliged to admit is the only right one.

The Collect

The Collect demonstrates that praying honestly changes our point of view. We begin by saying, "O God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do." The somewhat self-righteous lament of the psalmist in the Introit, who is convinced that God is being inattentive and distant, becomes the prayer of one who admits that, ultimately, nothing he does or acquires is, as it were, money in the bank . It is not a question of striving and achieving, but rather, of becoming utterly poor, and of learning to receive all things from God.

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La petite Thérèse

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, our 24 year old Doctor of the Church, wrote:

It is true I am not always faithful, but I never lose courage. I leave myself in the Arms of Our Lord. He teaches me to draw profit from everything, from the good and from the bad which He finds in me. He teaches me to speculate in the Bank of Love, or rather it is He Who speculates for me, without telling me how He does it--that is His affair, not mine. I have but to surrender myself wholly to Him, to do so without reserve, without even the satisfaction of knowing what it is all bringing to me.

And again, in her prayer of self-offering to the Merciful Love of God, she wrote:

When comes the evening of life, I shall stand before Thee with empty hands, because I do not ask Thee, my God, to take account of my works. All our works of justice are blemished in Thine Eyes.

The Collect also asks God to grant us the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles, that is, of Saint Paul, who in the Epistle, speaks to us candidly of his own sufferings, weaknesses, and glory. Saint Thérèse had read her Saint Paul well. I can see her endorsing enthusiastically all that he says to us today.

Saint Paul

Challenged by those who see themselves as super-apostles, Saint Paul is obliged to present his own defense. He glories not in heroic deeds, not in the working of miracles, not in honourable accomplishments, and not even in mystical experiences of the highest order but, rather, in his sufferings and in his infirmities. Why? The things we perceive as heroic -- our pathetic attempts at playing the splendid Christian -- risk filling us up with ourselves to the point of leaving no room for mercy, no room for grace, no room for the power of Christ. Our infirmities, on the other hand, our failures, our dodgy escapades, and even our sins, empty us of any pretext for glorying in ourselves. For some of us, God Himself will see to it that we never become inflated by the gifts we have received from Him, by giving us, at the same time, "a sting of the flesh" to buffet us into the humility without which we cannot be saved.

The Grace of Christ

That weakness in yourself that you so detest, the chronic failure that leaves you sitting in the gutter, the sin that spoils the imaginary portrait of yourself as nearly perfect, all of these things may be permitted by God, and this because the grace of Christ penetrates us most easily through our wounds, through the chinks in our armour, through cracks in our systems of defense.

Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to each one of us today the very words that He spoke to Saint Paul. "My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity."

The Seed of the Word

Will we hear these words of Our Lord? Will we take them to heart? Or will they fall upon the wayside to be trodden down and stolen away by wicked birds of prey? Or will they fall upon the rock of our hearts grown hard in pride and self-sufficiency? Will we receive them with a superficial thrill of spiritual enthusiasm, and then forget them to go on with business as usual? Or will they be choked by the cares of this life, by the drive to have, to control, and to enjoy? Or will these words of Our Lord find in our hearts a good ground, receptive and open, ready to hear them, to keep them, and to bring forth fruit in patience?

Should we receive Our Lord's words in this last way, we will find ourselves capable of saying with complete honesty, together with Saint Paul, and with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, who so assimilated his doctrine: "Gladly, will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Mercy, Grace, and Copious Redemption

I am who I am, and you are who you are, and this with all the ugly bits, with the untidiness, the shameful secrets, the chronic weaknesses, and the falls from grace. None of this is terminal, provided that we confess and believe that Our Lord Jesus is who He is, that with Him there is mercy and copious redemption, and that His grace is sufficient for us today, as it will be tomorrow. To whom be all glory and praise, now and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thérèse and Hope

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About twenty-five years ago, I was on a quest to deepen my capacity for living the theological virtue of hope. More honestly . . . I was battling persistent temptations to hopelessness bordering on despair. I read everything on hope that I could find. One of the books that marked me was L'Espérance by Père Gustave Desbuquois, S.J. (Yes, I even read Jesuit authors!) The book, it appears, also exists in English translation under the title, Hope. What I didn't know at the time was that Père Desbuquois was one of the first advocates of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face being declared a Doctor of the Church. In a letter written in 1997, Father Camilo Maccise, O.C.D., and Father Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm., the Priors General of the Discalced Carmelites and of the Ancient Order of Carmel, traced the history of the doctorate of Saint Thérèse:

Already from the time of her canonization, there was no lack of bishops, preachers, theologians, and faithful from different countries who sought to have our sister Thérèse of Lisieux declared a Doctor of the Church. This flow of petitions in favor of the doctorate became official in 1932 on the occasion of the inauguration of the crypt of the Basilica at Lisieux, which was accompanied by a congress at which five cardinals, fifty bishops, and a great number of faithful participated.

On June 30, Father Gustave Desbuquois, SJ, with clear and precise theological argument, spoke of Thérèse of Lisieux as Doctor of the Church. Surprisingly, his proposal had the support of many of the participants, bishops, and theologians. This positive reaction to the suggestion of Father Desbuquois spread universally. Monseigneur Clouthier, Bishop of Trois Rivières, Canada, wrote to all the bishops of the world in order to prepare a petition to the Holy See. By 1933 he had already received 342 positive replies from bishops who supported the proposal to have Thérèse of Lisieux declared a Doctor of the Church.

The petition of Father Desbuquois was presented to Pope Pius XI, along with a letter of Mother Agnes of Jesus, sister of Therese and prioress of the Lisieux Carmel. She informed the Pope about the great success of the Theresian Congress. On 31 August 1932, Cardinal Pacelli, Secretary of State, replied to Mother Agnes' letter on behalf of the Pope. He was very pleased about the positive results of the congress, but added that it would be better not to speak of Thérèse's doctorate yet, even though, "Her doctrine never ceased to be for him a sure light for souls searching to know the spirit of the Gospel."

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, the Doctor of Hope? But, of course.

Supplica to Saint Thérèse

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A Supplica is a prayer of supplication composed according to a certain literary genre that remains popular in Italy to this day. The most famous of these prayers would be the Supplica to the Queen of the Holy Rosary of Pompei composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo. Nearly every parish or chapel in southern Italy has a Supplica to its patron saint recited by all the people in unison on the saint's feast.

Our dear Oblate Brother Vincent Uher asked me to write a Supplica to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. We are asking her intercession for our monastery, trusting that she will find us a suitable permanent home. Here is my Supplica to Saint Thérèse.

O glorious Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
and of the Holy Face,
cherished child of the Father,
virgin espoused to the Son,
humble Doctor instructed by the Holy Ghost,
We greet thee with joy
and approach thee with confidence.

The wonders wrought by thy intercession
are too many to be counted;
thou showest thyself the friend and advocate
of all who have recourse to thee in time of need.
We rely on thy childlike power over the Father's Heart.

From the thy place in heaven
thou seest our afflictions
and, by a merciful disposition of Providence,
thou sendest roses of pity to those who seek thy help.

There is no mIsery of body or of soul
to which thou dost not respond with love.
Thou who didst seek to be love in the heart of the Church,
while still on earth,
art forever love in the heart of the Church
from the place that is thine in Heaven.

Descend to us, Saint Thérèse.
Hasten to us who are waiting for a rose from heaven,
a sign of thy compassion, a pledge of thy assistance.
Who hath not heard of thy errands of love
in every place and on every continent?
Walk with us, Saint Thérèse,
lest we wander from thy little way.

Change, we pray thee, our timid and faltering confidence,
into a confidence that is limitless and bold,
that by offering ourselves, as thou didst offer thyself,
to the mystery of Merciful Love,
our confidence may be perfected, as was thine,
in the contemplation of the holy and adorable Face of Jesus:
thine own heart's treasure in this valley of tears,
and thine all-surpassing joy
in the brightness of the heavenly fatherland.
Amen.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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