Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Today is the feast day of a great (and fairly recent) saint, loved by countless people the world over, myself included. You can read about the life of St. Thérèse at this page.

Thanks to the special intercession of St. Thérèse in the summer of 2001, I left my job with a bank, went on the Crossroads Pro-Life Walk, and then went back to college to complete my degree and later go to seminary. These were all big decisions and the special and unmistakable sign that she gave me was what gave me the courage to take a “leap of faith” and move on to the next chapter in my life.

A recent-enough saint that we have real photographs of her!

Pope Francis has a great devotion to St. Thérèse also. You can read about it here, and the special sign that he received in conjunction with the recent day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the whole world. (Note concerning the article: the Italian press regularly refer to the popes by their given names [current pope = Jorge Bergoglio], and this is not disrespectful at all.)

I am currently praying the Novena Rose Prayer for some special intentions, and strongly encourage you to do the same.

In my post about ex votos, there is featured an altar dedicated to St. Thérèse from the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories in Paris surrounded by many plaques commemorating answered prayers (fourth photo down).

Finally, here is one of my favorite texts by our saint, her “Instructions on Preaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary”. It’s a tender (and wonderfully French) reflection on Our Lady, encouraging the clergy to avoid excesses and flights of fantasy in preaching about her.

How I would have loved to be a priest in order to preach about the Blessed Virgin! One sermon would be sufficient to say everything I think about this subject.

I’d first make people understand how little is known by us about her life.

We shouldn’t say unlikely things or things we don’t know anything about! For example, that when she was very little, at the age of three, the Blessed Virgin went up to the Temple to offer herself to God, burning with sentiments of love and extraordinary fervor. While perhaps she went there very simply out of obedience to her parents.

Again, why say, with reference to the aged Simeon’s prophetic words, that the Blessed Virgin had the Passion of Jesus constantly before her mind from that moment onward? “And a sword will pierce through your soul also” (Lk 2:35), the old man said. It wasn’t for the present, you see, little Mother; it was a general prediction for the future.

For a sermon on the Blessed Virgin to please me and do me any good, I must see her real life, not her imagined life. I’m sure that her real life was very simple. They show her to us as unapproachable, but they should present her as imitable, bringing out her virtues, saying that she lived by faith just like ourselves, giving proofs of this from the Gospel, where we read: “And they did not understand the words which He spoke to them” (Lk 2:50). And that other no less mysterious statement: “His father and mother marveled at what was said about him” (Lk 2:33). This admiration presupposes a certain surprise, don’t you think so, little Mother?

We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of heaven and earth, but she is more Mother than Queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all the saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children’s glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she’ll increase the splendor of the elect very much.

It’s good to speak about her prerogatives, but we should not stop at this, and if, in a sermon, we are obliged from beginning to end to exclaim and say: Ah! Ah!, we would grow tired! Who knows whether some soul would not reach the point of feeling a certain estrangement from a creature so superior and would not say: If things are such, it’s better to go and shine as well as one is able in some little corner!

What the Blessed Virgin has more than we have is the privilege of not being able to sin, she was exempt from the stain of original sin; but on the other hand, she wasn’t as fortunate as we are, since she didn’t have a Blessed Virgin to love. And this is one more sweetness for us and one less sweetness for her!

Finally, in my poem: Pourquoi je t’aime, ô Marie [Why I love you, O Mary], I have said everything I would preach about her.

From St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations; trans. John Clarke, OCD; Washington: ICS Publications, 1977; pp. 161-162.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!

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