September 30, 2017

St. Therese of Lisieux. Patroness of Missionaries

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Memorial - October 1st

Imagine for a moment that you are in a dimly lit chapel. Candles light the altar as you are engulfed by soft voices praying the Rosary. You promise to focus completely on the prayers. You lift up your heart and… fall asleep. It is just another day in the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, better known as the “Little Flower.” More than any other saint, Theresa understood and explained the mystery of divine filiation of living as a child of God. She loved the Blessed Virgin Mary but did not enjoy the Rosary. She was a mystic but did enjoy retreats. St. Therese, however, never became upset or discouraged about falling asleep because she was confident that God, like a good parent, loved his children even when they were sleeping.

Commenting on the mystery of her vocation St. Therese wrote, “Jesus does not call those who are worthy, but those he wants to call.” For her, this vocation began as a call to Carmel, a cloistered convent, and ultimately led to her being named the patroness of missionaries by Pope Pius XI. Why would the Church choose as its patroness of missions one who had never physically undertaken a mission? The answer is that the essence of evangelization lies in imitating Christ and conforming ourselves to the light of grace he earned for us through the redemption. Words are certainly useful, but as Pope Pius XI observed:

"The preachers of the Gospel could well tire themselves out, toil and lay down their lives to lead pagans to the Catholic religion; they might be ever so industrious, ever so diligent and use every means known to man; but none of this would be to any avail, everything would be in vain, if God, in his grace, were not to touch hearts, then the toil of missionaries would be in vain."

St. Therese knew that she was a child of God and that her only way to holiness was to trust in him in all things. In the last pages of her autobiographical Story of a Soul, she writes, “In the eve of my life, I will come before you with nothing in my hands because I do not ask you to count the things I have done.”  St. Therese rejected a common error of her and our time that it is better and safer to rely on ourselves than to receive God’s grace. She truly lived Christ’s words: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Instead, St. Therese let God act through her. Whenever God inspired her to a certain kind act, St. Therese shouted “Yes!” unreservedly, faithfully and happily. She did not try to “earn grace” by her sacrifices and exterior acts but rather saw each trial as a gift from God so that she might be more closely united with her Savior Jesus Christ. In all things, St. Therese acted as a child of God, and in all things, she was rewarded as a child of God. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!

From Introduction to Catholicism, the Complete Course, Didache Series, ©2011.

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