Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Few saints have captured the modern imagination than that of Saint Térese of the Child Jesus. St. Pius X considered her the greatest saint in modern times and she was honored by other popes as well. Pope Pius XI made her co patron of the missions along with Francis Xavier in 1927, Pope Pius XII declared her co-patron of France along with Joan of Arc in 1944 and Pope John Paul II made her a doctor of the Church in 1997.
The popularity of the Little Flower makes sense if we view this pious young lady against the harsh landscape of late 19th century France. Terésa Martin was born in 1873, a time when France was recovering from the horrors of the Franco-Prussian war, the dehumanization caused by industrialization, and the embrace of consumerism. France’s rush to the vie moderne was symbolized by a mechanized society whose members were outfitted in the latest fashions purchased at Galeries Lafayette or the Le Bon Marché. The new Society and its thrust for sound middle class sensibility left little room for the intrusion of God. If Jacques Eiffel was building another tour to outdo every human monument in height for the 1889 Paris World Far, Teresa was plunging the depths of the love of the heart of Christ when she entered the Carmel at Lieseux just a year earlier in 1888.
Much has been written on Terese’s life but for today’s brief reflection we can take profit from one of her many maxims: “I only love simplicity; I have a horror of preference.” Today’s simple saint would make a poor showing at a leadership workshop or one of the many causes whose participation award the status of hero. Clearly we can’t all abandon our work and head for contemplative life in the Carmel, but Térese does inspire us to recall that the temptation to greatness is a temptation and that her simple recognition of the love of God puts us on the right track towards sanctity.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.