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From the Pastor 09/30/18

It is nice to be home after two weeks of being in Maine. I think this is the longest time I have ever been away. My parents are holding their own, although more diminished since the last time I saw them. My father has been placed in the full nursing wing of the nursing home. Previously he was living in the Assisted Living area of the nursing home. I was able to take him out for a full day to give him a haircut, spend the day with him, cook a meal for him, and returning him to his nursing home. Due to his confusion they do not want me to keep him overnight anymore. My mother has been placed under hospice care. Her death is not imminent, but this just gives her more care than she had under regular nursing care. It is hard to see them slowly diminish, but I am happy I was able to spend time with both of them.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. This Monday, October 1, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, popularly known as the Little Flower. Holy Mother Church gives us for the Mass a selection from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

The theme of spiritual littleness is of course one of the main themes of St. Thérèse’s life. Born in Normandy, France at the end of the 19th century, she would live only 24 years, but 24 years that would have a profound impact on the Catholic world; an impact that continues even to this day.

Thérèse was the youngest of nine children born to SS. Louis Martin and Zelie-Marie Guerin, but only four girls survived infancy. All four would eventually enter the Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux.

From her very young years she desired to enter the monastery. She even pleaded personally with Pope Leo XIII during a pilgrimage to Rome. She finally succeeded in being admitted at the age of 15, and was given the name Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She stated during the interrogation at her entrance into Carmel that she had entered Carmel for the salvation of souls, and especially to pray for priests.

In 1896 she had the first attack of tuberculosis, which would lead to her death in 1897. In the meantime the prioress, Mother Agnes of Jesus, a blood sister of Thérèse, commanded her to write her memoires, which were eventually published under the title The Story of a Soul. In this work Thérèse expounds her doctrine of the “little way” of spiritual childhood; a spiritual doctrine of littleness that spread like wildfire throughout the entire Catholic world, and continues to inspire countless souls today.

“You can see that I am a very little soul and that I can offer God only very little things.”

In Thérèse the simplicity of total abandonment to God is associated with her complete holocaust to God. At the age of 15 she made her act of total oblation; during her novitiate she was submerged in a long period of aridity, at her profession she was assailed by disturbing doubts; and at the end of her life she suffered a terrible trial of faith. When Mother Agnes told her that her last agony might be prolonged, Thérèse responded, “Well, all right. I would not want to suffer a shorter length of time.”

She experienced a transport of love resembling the transverberation experienced by St. Theresa of Avila. Her fidelity in little things and her courageous spirit of sacrifice enabled her to transform even the periods of great suffering into times of joy and peace. She even promised that after her death she would let fall a “shower of roses.” She meant spiritual prayers and favors.

Two outstanding virtues characterize her life. First, a radical humility that makes us aware of our weakness and our total dependence on God. Second, she possessed a complete surrender to the infinite mercy of God in an act of perfect love.

Her own words tell her story better than anyone else can. It is an inspiring odyssey that has given guidance to many souls: “Love appeared to me to be the hinge of my vocation ... I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble members was not lacking. I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. 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 bonds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everything. Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling; my call is love. Certainly I have found my proper place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love; and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”

Thérèse was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1924, and declared Patroness of the Missions. St. John Paul II also declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Shortly before her death she wrote: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” Indeed she continues to do so, in the lives of so many who have been inspired by her “Little Way.”

Truly she was a valiant woman who did not whimper about her illnesses and anxieties. Here is a person who saw the power of love, divine grace which can change everything including weakness and illness, into service and redemptive power for others. Is it any wonder that she is patroness of the missions? Who else but those who embrace suffering with great love can convert the world to Jesus Christ?

May we become like little children and follow her Little Way, and like Thérèse may we offer ourselves for the salvation of all humanity.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor