Totus Tuus - To Jesus through Mary.

To impel the beauty of the new evangelization – this is the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel; Its founder, Monsignor João Dias explains."The Heralds of the Gospel is a private association of faithful with a very special charism based essentially on three points: the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope."

The Heralds of the Gospel are an International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right, the first to be established by the Holy See in the third millennium, during a ceremony which occurred during the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (February 22) in 2001.

The Heralds of the Gospel strive to be instruments of holiness in the Church by encouraging close unity between faith and life, and working to evangelize particularly through art and culture. Their apostolate, which differs depending upon the environments in which they work, gives pride of place to parish animation, evangelizing families, providing catechetical and cultural formation to young people, and disseminating religious Iiterature.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Giant of Love

The Relics of Saint Thérèse of the Infant Jesus draw thousands in England and Wales

by Br Arthur - Heralds of the Gospel

I was in Portsmouth for the magnificent welcoming ceremony at St John’s Cathedral of the relics of this young girl who lived a short cloistered life hidden in a Carmelite convent and became a world star after death.

The arrival of the casket was very moving. We all had the impression that a real living person was arriving. I haven’t heard of the remains of any great man or woman in any time in history whose dead body would be carried by his or her admirers to the four corners of the world. It only happened to someone paradoxically known as the “Little Flower”, who followed in life what she called the “Little way”. It was touching to remember that when she was 12 years old this same Thérèse had drawn a map of the British Isles which included some names of cities and Portsmouth was one of them.

Who was she?

St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face was born on 2 January 1873 in Alençon, France. Her father, Blessed Louis Martin was a watchmaker and her mother, Blessed Marie Azélie Guérin was a lace maker. The loving and holy upbringing of her parents, in particular of her father, had a great impact on her childhood.

Of her eight siblings, only four survived to adulthood – Marie, Pauline, Léonie and Céline. In 1877 her mother died, she was only 4 years old. When some years later Pauline entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, Thérèse also wanted to enter. Around that time she underwent a three month illness with a disturbing crisis, extended delirium and prolonged fainting spells but she said later that she had been cured when a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at her.

At 14, after her other sister, Marie, entered the same convent, she renewed her attempts to join the Carmel but was refused on account of her youth. She did not give up and convinced her father to take her to Rome as part of a pilgrimage for the jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. She went as far as asking the Pope himself to approve her desire. The Pope answered “if it is Gods will, you will enter”. Her determination and pious behaviour on the trip made an impression on an advisor of the Bishop of Bayeux. On his return, he convinced the bishop to give her the final approval. It was 1888, Thérèse was 15 years old.

A high way to holiness

The Carmel was heaven for her but a heaven full of sufferings. One month after entering the convent, Thérèse wrote to her sister Celine: “A day passed by a Carmelite without sufferings is a day lost.” It is in suffering that she discovered her “Little Way” of holiness, also known as the “Way of Spiritual Childhood”. This way in fact is a “high way” to holiness, not only for her but for the psychologically weak generations that were coming after her. In other words, for us today.

In her autobiographical manuscripts, entitled “The Story of a Soul”, she brilliantly explains it herself: “I have always desired to be holy, but – poor me! – I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Far from being discouraged, I said to myself: ‘The Good God cannot inspire unattainable desires. Therefore, despite my littleness, I can aspire to sanctity. It is impossible for me to become great; therefore I should accept myself as I am with all my imperfections, but I want to find a means of going to heaven by a little way which is very direct and short, an entirely new little way.’”

In her time the recently invented elevator that spared its users the effort of climbing stairs was a popular novelty. Sister Thérèse greatly desired to “find an elevator to take me up to Jesus, because I am too little to climb up the harsh staircase of perfection.” She set about finding it in the books of Sacred Scripture and came across this verse: “Who-ever is simple, let him turn in here!” (Prv 9:4) Continuing her search, she found this affirmation: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Is 66:13). And she concluded full of joy “Ah! The elevator that should carry me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus!”

Attentive and loving perusal of the holy Gospels made this “little way” more clear to her: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). “Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them; for to such as these belongs the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:14).

Her way is not the undertaking of great bodily mortifications, so much as the humble acceptance of one’s own littleness and limitations, even one’s imperfections, and having love and boundless confidence in the goodness of God. And, as a fruit of this love, having the great desire to perform ordinary daily actions with perfection. “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul”, she said.

“My vocation is love”

Answering the questionnaire put to her before her Profession on 8th September 1890, Thérèse states: “I have come to Carmel to save souls and above all to pray for priests.”

Later on she would say “I would like to be a missionary, not just for a few years, but till the end of time.”

It is in reading Saint Paul that she discovers the key of her vocation. In “Story of a Soul” she writes “… It was the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of First Corinthians that claimed my attention. The first of these told me that we can’t all of us be apostles, all of us prophets, all of us doctors, and so on; the Church is composed of members which differ in their use; the eye is one thing and the hand is another. It was a clear enough answer, but it didn’t satisfy my aspirations … The apostle goes on to explain that all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love, are absolutely nothing; … when Saint Paul was talking about the different members of the mystical body I couldn’t recognize myself in any of them; or rather I could recognize myself in all of them. But charity – that was the key to my vocation. If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a heart, and a heart burning with love. And I realized that this love was the true force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function the apostles would forget to preach the Gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all others; it is a universe in its own, comprising all time and space – it is eternal. Beside myself with joy I cried out: Jesus, my love! I’ve found my vocation, and my vocation is love. ”

“I will spend my Heaven doing good upon earth”

Thérèse was small in the eyes of her contemporaries but she was a giant in the eyes of God.

She died on 30th September 1897 of tuberculosis, her last words being “My God, I love you”.

Nevertheless, her mission was yet to start. As she had promised in her final days, “I feel that my mission is soon to begin, to make others love God as I do, to teach others my ‘Little Way’, I will spend my Heaven doing good upon earth.” Among the so many miracles that she performed to so many people we will just mention one, perhaps not very well known: in 1922, the famous singer, Edith Piaf, at the time an unknown seven year old girl, was cured from blindness after pilgrimage to the saint’s grave.

St Thérèse was beatified in April 1923 and canonized on 17th May 1925, by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death; she would have been only 52 years old. In 1927 the same pontiff proclaimed her Patroness of the Missions, alongside St Francis Xavier. She was then declared Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997, making her the third woman in history to receive that title.

She is commonly depicted with roses in her hands, in reference to her famous words “After death I will let fall a shower of roses.” For people, roses and love are synonymous with St. Thérèse. Love of God and love for souls was at the centre of her heart.◘

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