Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face: October 2012 Archives

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.

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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