Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, Doctor

Luke 10:1-12

Your peace will rest on that man

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’


Job 19:21-27

My Avenger lives and will set me close to him when I awake

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, you, my friends,

  for the hand of God has struck me.

Why do you hound me down like God,

  will you never have enough of my flesh?

Ah, would that these words of mine were written down,

  inscribed on some monument

with iron chisel and engraving tool,

  cut into the rock for ever.

This I know: that my Avenger lives,

  and he, the Last, will take his stand on earth.

After my awaking, he will set me close to him,

  and from my flesh I shall look on God.

He whom I shall see will take my part:

  these eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.


Psalm 26(27):7-9,13-14

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;

  have mercy and answer.

Of you my heart has spoken:

  ‘Seek his face.’

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;

  hide not your face.

Dismiss not your servant in anger;

  you have been my help.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness

  in the land of the living.

Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.

  Hope in the Lord!

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act. Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.” The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.” It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty.” The competent authority determines these “offerings” in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers. “The laborer deserves his food.”


Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (French: Sainte-Thérèse de Lisieux), born Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897), also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who is widely venerated in modern times. She is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus” or simply “The Little Flower”.

Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the “simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life”. Together with Saint Francis Xavier, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Saint Pius X called her “the greatest saint of modern times”.

Thérèse felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of 15, she became a nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices such as sacristan and assistant to the novice mistress, and having spent her last eighteen months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died at aged 24, following a slow and painful fight against tuberculosis.

Her feast day is 1 October (3 October in the extraordinary form). Thérèse is well known throughout the world, with the Basilica of Lisieux being the second-largest place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes.

Life

Family background

She was born in Rue Saint-Blaise, Alençon, in France on 2 January 1873, the daughter of Marie-Azélie Guérin, (usually called Zélie), and Louis Martin, a jeweler and watchmaker. Both her parents were devout Catholics who would eventually become the first (and to date only) married couple canonized together by the Roman Catholic Church (in 2015).

Louis had tried to become a canon regular, wanting to enter the Great St Bernard Hospice, but had been refused because he knew no Latin. Zélie, possessed of a strong, active temperament, wished to serve the sick, and had also considered entering consecrated life, but the prioress of the canonesses regular of the Hôtel-Dieu in Alençon had discouraged her enquiry outright. Disappointed, Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking. She excelled in it and set up her own business on Rue Saint-Blaise at age 22.

Louis and Zélie met in early 1858 and married on July 13 of that same year at the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Alençon. At first they decided to live as brother and sister in a perpetual continence, but when a confessor discouraged them in this, they changed their lifestyle and had nine children. From 1867-70 they lost 3 infants and five year old Hélène. All five of their surviving daughters became nuns:)

‘A dreamer and brooder, an idealist and romantic, [the father] gave touching and naïve pet names [to his daughters]: Marie was his diamond, Pauline his noble pearl, Céline the bold one..But Thérèse was his petite reine, little queen, to whom all treasures belonged”.

Zélie was so successful in manufacturing lace that by 1870 Louis had sold his watchmaking shop to a nephew and handled the traveling and bookkeeping end of his wife’s lacemaking business.

Birth and infancy

Soon after her birth in January 1873, the outlook for the survival of Thérèse Martin was very grim. Because of her frail condition, she was entrusted to a wet nurse, Rose Taillé, who had already nursed two of the Martin children. Rose had her own children and could not live with the Martins, so Thérèse was sent to live with her in the forests of the Bocage at Semallé.

On Holy Thursday, 2 April 1874, when she was 15 months old, she returned to Alençon where her family surrounded her with affection. “I hear the baby calling me Mama! as she goes down the stairs. On every step, she calls out Mama! and if I don’t respond every time, she remains there without going either forward or back.” (Madame Martin to Pauline, 21 November 1875) She was educated in a very Catholic environment, including Mass attendance at 5:30 AM, the strict observance of fasts, and prayer to the rhythm of the liturgical year. The Martins also practiced charity, visiting the sick and elderly and welcoming the occasional vagabond to their table. Even if she wasn’t the model little girl her sisters later portrayed, Thérèse was very sensitive to this education. She played at being a nun. Described as generally a happy child, she was emotional too, and often cried: “Céline is playing with the little one with some bricks… I have to correct poor baby who gets into frightful tantrums when she can’t have her own way. She rolls in the floor in despair believing all is lost. Sometimes she is so overcome she almost chokes. She’s a nervous child, but she is very good, very intelligent, and remembers everything.” At 22, Thérèse, then a Carmelite, admitted: “I was far from being a perfect little girl”.

From 1865 Zelie had complained of breast pain and in December 1876 a doctor told her of the seriousness of the tumour. Feeling the approach of death Madame Martin had written to Pauline in spring 1877, “You and Marie will have no difficulties with her upbringing. Her disposition is so good. She is a chosen spirit.” In June 1877 she left for Lourdes hoping to be cured, but the miracle did not happen. “The Mother of God has not healed me because my time is up, and because God wills me to repose elsewhere than on the earth.” On 28 August 1877, Zélie died, aged 45. Her funeral was conducted in the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Alençon. Thérèse was barely 4 1/2 years old. Her mother’s death dealt her a severe blow and later she would consider that “the first part of her life stopped that day”.

She wrote: “Every detail of my mother’s illness is still with me, specially her last weeks on earth.” She remembered the bedroom scene where her dying mother received the last sacraments while Thérèse knelt and her father cried. She wrote: “When Mummy died, my happy disposition changed. I had been so lively and open; now I became diffident and oversensitive, crying if anyone looked at me. I was only happy if no one took notice of me… It was only in the intimacy of my own family, where everyone was wonderfully kind, that I could be more myself.”

Three months after Zélie died, Louis Martin left Alençon, where he had spent his youth and marriage, and moved to Lisieux in the Calvados Department of Normandy, where Zélie’s pharmacist brother, Isidore Guérin lived with his wife and their two daughters, Jeanne and Marie. In her last months Zélie had given up the lace business; after her death, Louis sold it. Louis leased a pretty, spacious country house, Les Buissonnets, situated in a large garden on the slope of a hill overlooking the town. Looking back, Thérèse would see the move to Les Buissonnets as the beginning of the “second period of my life, the most painful of the three: it extends from the age of four-and-a-half to fourteen, the time when I rediscovered my childhood character, and entered into the serious side of life”.In Lisieux, Pauline took on the role of Thérèse’s Mama. She took this role seriously, and Thérèse grew especially close to her, and to Céline, the sister closest to her in age.

Early years

Thérèse was taught at home until she was eight and a half, and then entered the school kept by the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of Notre Dame du Pre in Lisieux. Thérèse, taught well and carefully by Marie and Pauline, found herself at the top of the class, except for writing and arithmetic. However, because of her young age and high grades, she was bullied. The one who bullied her the most was a girl of fourteen who did poorly at school. Thérèse suffered very much as a result of her sensitivity, and she cried in silence. Furthermore, the boisterous games at recreation were not to her taste. She preferred to tell stories or look after the little ones in the infants class. “The five years I spent at school were the saddest of my life, and if my dear Céline had not been with me I could not have stayed there for a single month without falling ill.” Céline informs us, “She now developed a fondness for hiding, she did not want to be observed, for she sincerely considered herself inferior”. On her free days she became more and more attached to Marie Guérin, the younger of her two cousins in Lisieux. The two girls would play at being anchorites, as the great Teresa had once played with her brother. And every evening she plunged into the family circle. “Fortunately I could go home every evening and then I cheered up. I used to jump on Father’s knee and tell him what marks I had, and when he kissed me all my troubles were forgotten…I needed this sort of encouragement so much.” Yet the tension of the double life and the daily self-conquest placed a strain on Thérèse. Going to school became more and more difficult.

When she was nine years old, in October 1882, her sister Pauline, who had acted as a “second mother” to her, entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux. Thérèse was devastated. She understood that Pauline was cloistered and that she would never come back. “I said in the depths of my heart: Pauline is lost to me!” The shock reawakened in her the trauma caused by her mother’s death. She also wanted to join the Carmelites, but was told she was too young. Yet Thérèse so impressed Mother Marie Gonzague, the prioress at the time of Pauline’s entry to the community that she wrote to comfort her, calling Thérèse “my future little daughter”.

Illness

At this time, Thérèse was often sick; she began to suffer from nervous tremors. The tremors started one night after her uncle took her for a walk and began to talk about Zélie. Assuming that she was cold, the family covered Therese with blankets, but the tremors continued; she clenched her teeth and could not speak. The family called Dr. Notta, who could make no diagnosis. In 1882, Dr. Gayral diagnosed that Thérèse “reacts to an emotional frustration with a neurotic attack”.

An alarmed, but cloistered, Pauline began to write letters to Thérèse and attempted various strategies to intervene. Eventually Thérèse recovered after she had turned to gaze at the statue of the Virgin Mary placed in Marie’s room, where Thérèse had been moved. She reported on 13 May 1883 that she had seen the Virgin smile at her. She wrote: “Our Blessed Lady has come to me, she has smiled upon me. How happy I am.” However, when Thérèse told the Carmelite nuns about this vision at the request of her eldest sister Marie, she found herself assailed by their questions and she lost confidence. Self-doubt made her begin to question what had happened. “I thought I had lied – I was unable to look upon myself without a feeling of profound horror.” “For a long time after my cure, I thought that my sickness was deliberate and this was a real martyrdom for my soul”. Her concerns over this continued until November 1887.

In October 1886 her oldest sister, Marie, entered the same Carmelite monastery, adding to Thérèse’s grief. The warm atmosphere at Les Buissonnets, so necessary to her, was disappearing. Now only she and Céline remained with their father. Her frequent tears made some friends think she had a weak character and the Guérins indeed shared this opinion.

Thérèse also suffered from scruples, a condition experienced by other saints such as Alphonsus Liguori, also a Doctor of the Church and Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. She wrote: “One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible”.

Complete conversion: Christmas 1886

Christmas Eve of 1886 was a turning point in the life of Thérèse; she called it her “complete conversion.” Years later she stated that on that night she overcame the pressures she had faced since the death of her mother and said that “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant … On that blessed night … Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood”.

That night, Louis Martin and his daughters, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse, attended the midnight mass at the cathedral in Lisieux— “but there was very little heart left in them. On 1 December, Léonie, covered in eczema and hiding her hair under a short mantilla, had returned to Les Buissonnets after just seven weeks of the Poor Clares regime in Alençon”, and her sisters were helping her get over her sense of failure and humiliation. Back at Les Buissonnets as every year, Thérèse “as was the custom for French children, had left her shoes on the hearth, empty in anticipation of gifts, not from Father Christmas but from the Child Jesus, who was imagined to travel through the air bearing toys and cakes.” While she and Celine were going up the stairs she heard her father, “perhaps exhausted by the hour, or this reminder of the relentless emotional demands of his weepy youngest daughter”, say with some irritation “Therese is far too old for this now. Fortunately this will be the last year!” Thérèse had begun to cry and Céline advised her not to go back downstairs immediately. Then, suddenly, Thérèse pulled herself together and wiped her tears. She ran down the stairs, knelt by the fireplace and unwrapped her surprises as jubilantly as ever. In her account, nine years later, of 1895 : “In an instant Jesus, content with my good will, accomplished the work I had not been able to do in ten years.” After nine sad years she had “recovered the strength of soul she had lost” when her mother died and, she said, “she was to retain it forever”. She discovered the joy in self-forgetfulness and added, “I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy—Since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, “to run a giant’s course” (Psalms 19:5).

According to Ida Görres, “Thérèse instantly understood what had happened to her when she won this banal little victory over her sensitivity, which she had borne for so long; …freedom is found in resolutely looking away from oneself.. and the fact that a person can cast himself away from himself reveals again that being good, victory is pure grace, a sudden gift..It cannot be coerced, and yet it can be received only by the patiently prepared heart”. Biographer Kathryn Harrison: “After all, in the past she had tried to control herself, had tried with all her being and had failed. Grace, alchemy, masochism: through whatever lens we view her transport, Thérèse’s night of illumination presented both its power and its danger. It would guide her steps between the mortal and the divine, between living and dying, destruction and apotheosis. It would take her exactly where she intended to go”.

The character of the saint and the early forces that shaped her personality have been the subject of analysis, particularly in recent years. Apart from the family doctor who observed her in the 19th century, all other conclusions are inevitably speculative. For instance, author Ida Görres, whose formal studies had focused on church history and hagiography, wrote a psychological analysis of the saint’s character. Some authors suggest that Thérèse had a strongly neurotic aspect to her personality for most of her life. Harrison, concluded that, “her temperament was not formed for compromise or moderation…a life spent not taming but directing her appetite and her will, a life perhaps shortened by the force of her desire and ambition.”

Imitation of Christ, Rome, and entry to Carmel

Before she was fourteen, when she started to experience a period of calm, Thérèse started to read The Imitation of Christ. She read the Imitation intently, as if the author traced each sentence for her: “The Kingdom of God is within you… Turn thee with thy whole heart unto the Lord; and forsake this wretched world: and thy soul shall find rest.” She kept the book with her constantly and wrote later that this book and parts of another book of a very different character, lectures by Abbé Arminjon on The End of This World, and the Mysteries of the World to Come, nourished her during this critical period. Thereafter she began to read other books, mostly on history and science.

In May 1887, Thérèse approached her 63-year-old father Louis, who was recovering from a small stroke, while he sat in the garden one Sunday afternoon and told him that she wanted to celebrate the anniversary of “her conversion” by entering Carmel before Christmas. Louis and Thérèse both broke down and cried, but Louis got up, gently picked a little white flower, root intact, and gave it to her, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it until that day. Thérèse later wrote: “while I listened I believed I was hearing my own story”. To Therese, the flower seemed a symbol of herself, “destined to live in another soil”. Thérèse renewed her attempts to join the Carmel, but the priest-superior of the monastery would not allow it on account of her youth.

 For her journey to Mgr Hugonin, Bishop of Bayeux, to seek permission to enter Carmel at Christmas 1887 Thérèse had put up her hair for the first time, a symbol for being “grown-up”. A photograph taken in April 1888 shows a fresh, firm, girlish face..The familiar flowing locks are combed sternly back and up, piled in a hard little chignon on the top of her head.

During the summer, French newspapers were filled with the story of Henri Pranzini, convicted of the brutal murder of two women and a child. To the outraged public Pranzini represented all that threatened the decent way of life in France. In July and August 1887 Thérèse prayed hard for the conversion of Pranzini, so his soul could be saved, yet Pranzini showed no remorse. At the end of August, the newspapers reported that just as Pranzini’s neck was placed on the guillotine, he had grabbed a crucifix and kissed it three times. Thérèse was ecstatic and believed that her prayers had saved him. She continued to pray for Pranzini after his death.

In November 1887, Louis took Céline and Thérèse on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome for the priestly jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. The cost of the trip enforced a strict selection, a quarter of the pilgrims belonged to the nobility. The birth, in 1871, of the French Third Republic had marked a decline of the conservative right’s power. Forced onto the defensive, the royalist bourgeoisie perceived a strong Church as an important means of safeguarding France’s integrity and its future. The rise of a militant nationalist Catholicism, a trend that would, in 1894, result in the anti-Semitic scapegoating and trumped-up treason conviction of Alfred Dreyfus was a development that Thérèse did not at all perceive. Still a sheltered child, Thérèse lived in ignorance of political events and motivations.

She did notice, however, the ‘social ambition and vanity’, adding “Céline and I found ourselves mixing with members of the aristocracy; but we were not impressed..the words of the Imitation, ‘do not be solicitous for the shadow of a great name’, were not lost on me, and I realised that real nobility is in the soul, not in a name”.[41] On 20 November 1887, during a general audience with Leo XIII, Thérèse, in her turn, approached the Pope, knelt, and asked him to allow her to enter Carmel at 15. The Pope said: “Well, my child, do what the superiors decide…. You will enter if it is God’s Will” and he blessed Thérèse. She refused to leave his feet, and the Swiss Guard had to carry her out of the room.

The trip continued: they visited Pompeii, Naples, Assisi; then it was back via Pisa and Genoa. The pilgrimage of nearly a month came at a timely point for her burgeoning personality. She “learnt more than in many years of study”. For the first and last time in her life, she left her native Normandy. Notably she, “who only knew priests in the exercise of their ministry was in their company, heard their conversations, not always edifying—and saw their shortcomings for herself”.

She had understood that she had to pray and give her life for sinners like Pranzini. But Carmel prayed especially for priests and this had surprised her since their souls seemed to her to be “as pure as crystal”. A month spent with many priests taught her that they are “weak and feeble men”. She wrote later: “I met many saintly priests that month, but I also found that in spite of being above angels by their supreme dignity, they were none the less men and still subject to human weakness. If the holy priests, ‘the salt of the earth’, as Jesus calls them in the Gospel, have to be prayed for, what about the lukewarm? Again, as Jesus says, ‘If the salt shall lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?’ I understood my vocation in Italy.” For the first time too she had associated with young men. “In her brotherless existence, masculinity had been represented only by her father, her Uncle Guérin and various priests. Now she had her first and only experiences. Céline declared at the beatification proceedings that one of the young men in the pilgrimage group “developed a tender affection for her”. Thérèse confessed to her sister, “It is high time for Jesus to remove me from the poisonous breath of the world…I feel that my heart is easily caught by tenderness, and where others fall, I would fall too. We are no stronger than the others”. Soon after that, the Bishop of Bayeux authorized the prioress to receive Thérèse. On 9 April 1888 she became a Carmelite postulant.

The Little Flower in Carmel

The monastery Thérèse entered was an old-established house with a great tradition. In 1838 two nuns from the Poitiers Carmel had been sent out to found the house of Lisieux. One of them, Mother Geneviève of St Teresa, was still living when Thérèse entered… the second wing, containing the cells and sickrooms in which she was to live and die, had been standing only ten years… “What she found was a community of very aged nuns, some odd and cranky, some sick and troubled, some lukewarm and complacent. Almost all of the sisters came from the petty bourgeois and artisan class. The Prioress and Novice Mistress were of old Norman nobility. Probably the Martin sisters alone represented the new class of the rising bourgeoisie”.

The Carmelite order had been reformed in the sixteenth century by Teresa of Ávila, essentially devoted to personal and collective prayer. The nuns of Lisieux followed a strict regimen that allowed for only one meal a day for seven months of the year, and little free time. Only one room of the building was heated.The times of silence and of solitude were many but the foundress had also planned for time for work and relaxation in common—the austerity of the life should not hinder sisterly and joyful relations. Founded in 1838, the Carmel of Lisieux in 1888 had 26 religious, from very different classes and backgrounds. For the majority of the life of Thérèse, the prioress would be Mother Marie de Gonzague, born Marie-Adéle-Rosalie Davy de Virville. When Thérèse entered the convent Mother Marie was 54, a woman of changeable humour, jealous of her authority, used sometimes in a capricious manner; this had for effect, a certain laxity in the observance of established rules. “In the sixties and seventies of the [nineteenth] century an aristocrat in the flesh counted for far more in a petty bourgeois convent than we can realize nowadays… the superiors appointed Marie de Gonzague to the highest offices as soon as her novitiate was finished… in 1874 began the long series of terms as Prioress”.

Postulancy

Thérèse’s time as a postulant began with her welcome into the Carmel, Monday, 9 April 1888.She felt peace after she received communion that day and later wrote, “At last my desires were realized, and I cannot describe the deep sweet peace which filled my soul. This peace has remained with me during the eight and a half years of my life here, and has never left me even amid the greatest trials”.CITEREFSaint_ThérèseTaylor_(tr.)2006

From her childhood, Thérèse had dreamed of the desert to which God would some day lead her. Now she had entered that desert. Though she was now reunited with Marie and Pauline, from the first day she began her struggle to win and keep her distance from her sisters. Right at the start Marie de Gonzague, the prioress, had turned the postulant Thérèse over to her eldest sister Marie, who was to teach her to follow the Divine Office. Later she appointed Thérèse assistant to Pauline in the refectory. And when her cousin Marie Guerin also entered, she employed the two together in the sacristy.

Thérèse adhered strictly to the rule which forbade all superfluous talk during work. She saw her sisters together only in the hours of common recreation after meals. At such times she would sit down beside whomever she happened to be near, or beside a nun whom she had observed to be downcast, disregarding the tacit and sometimes expressed sensitivity and even jealousy of her biological sisters. “We must apologize to the others for our being four under one roof”, she was in the habit of remarking. “When I am dead, you must be very careful not to lead a family life with one another…I did not come to Carmel to be with my sisters; on the contrary, I saw clearly that their presence would cost me dear, for I was determined not to give way to nature.”

Although the novice mistress, Sister Marie of the Angels, found Thérèse slow, the young postulant adapted well to her new environment. She wrote, “Illusions, the Good Lord gave me the grace to have none on entering Carmel. I found religious life as I had figured, no sacrifice astonished me.” She sought above all to conform to the rules and customs of the Carmelites that she learnt each day with her four religious of the novitiate.

She chose a spiritual director, a Jesuit, Father Pichon. At their first meeting, 28 May 1888, she made a general confession going back over all her past sins. She came away from it profoundly relieved. The priest who had himself suffered from scruples, understood her and reassured her.A few months later, he left for Canada, and Thérèse would only be able to ask his advice by letter and his replies were rare. (On 4 July 1897, she confided to Pauline, ‘Father Pichon treated me too much like a child; nonetheless he did me a lot of good too by saying that I never committed a mortal sin.’) During her time as a postulant, Thérèse had to endure some bullying from other sisters because of her lack of aptitude for handicrafts and manual work. Sister St Vincent de Paul, the finest embroiderer in the community made her feel awkward and even called her ‘the big nanny goat’. Thérèse was in fact the tallest in the family, 1.62 metres (approx. 5’3″). Pauline, the shortest, was no more than 1.54m tall (approx.5′).

Like all religious she discovered the ups and downs related to differences in temperament, character, problems of sensitivities or infirmities. After nine years she wrote plainly, “the lack of judgment, education, the touchiness of some characters, all these things do not make life very pleasant. I know very well that these moral weaknesses are chronic, that there is no hope of cure”. But the greatest suffering came from outside Carmel. On 23 June 1888, Louis Martin disappeared from his home and was found days later, in the post office in Le Havre. The incident marked the onset of her father’s decline. He died on July 29, 1894.

Novitiate (10 January 1889 – 24 September 1890)

The end of Thérèse’s time as a postulant arrived on the January 10, 1889, with her taking of the habit. From that time she wore the ‘rough homespun and brown scapular, white wimple and veil, leather belt with rosary, woollen ‘stockings’, rope sandals”. Her father’s health having temporarily stabilized he was able to attend, though twelve days after her ceremony her father suffered a stroke and was taken to a private sanatorium, the Bon Sauveur at Caen, where he remained for three years before returning to Lisieux in 1892. In this period Thérèse deepened the sense of her vocation; to lead a hidden life, to pray and offer her suffering for priests, to forget herself, to increase discreet acts of charity. She wrote, “I applied myself especially to practice little virtues, not having the facility to perform great ones … In her letters from this period of her novitiate, Thérèse returned over and over to the theme of littleness, referring to herself as a grain of sand, an image she borrowed from Pauline…’Always littler, lighter, in order to be lifted more easily by the breeze of love.’ The remainder of her life would be defined by retreat and subtraction”.

She absorbed the work of John of the Cross, spiritual reading uncommon at the time, especially for such a young nun. “Oh! what insights I have gained from the works of our holy father, St. John of the Cross! When I was seventeen and eighteen, I had no other spiritual nourishment…” She felt a kinship with this classic writer of the Carmelite Order (though nothing seems to have drawn her to the writing of Teresa of Avila), and with enthusiasm she read his works, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Way of Purification, the Spiritual Canticle, the Living Flame of Love. Passages from these writings are woven into everything she herself said and wrote. The fear of God, which she found in certain sisters, paralyzed her. “My nature is such that fear makes me recoil, with LOVE not only do I go forward, I fly”.

With the new name a Carmelite receives when she enters the Order, there is always an epithet – example, Teresa of Jesus, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Anne of the Angels. The epithet singles out the Mystery which she is supposed to contemplate with special devotion. “Thérèse’s names in religion – she had two of them – must be taken together to define her religious significance”. The first name was promised to her at nine, by Mother Marie de Gonzague, of the Child Jesus, and was given to her at her entry into the convent. In itself, veneration of the childhood of Jesus was a Carmelite heritage of the seventeenth century – it concentrated upon the staggering humiliation of divine majesty in assuming the shape of extreme weakness and helplessness. The French Oratory of Jesus and Pierre de Bérulle renewed this old devotional practice. Yet when she received the veil, Thérèse herself asked Mother Marie de Gonzague to confer upon her the second name of the Holy Face.

Organisations

Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face Sisters of the Holy Face Oratory of the Holy Face Sisters of the Holy Face of Jesus Veronican Sisters of the Holy Face Missionary Sisters of the Holy Face of Jesus Holy Face Brothers

During the course of her novitiate, contemplation of the Holy Face had nourished her inner life. This is an image representing the disfigured face of Jesus during His Passion. And she meditated on certain passages from the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 53). Six weeks before her death she remarked to Pauline, “The words in Isaiah: ‘no stateliness here, no majesty, no beauty,…one despised, left out of all human reckoning; How should we take any account of him, a man so despised (Is 53:2-3) – these words were the basis of my whole worship of the Holy Face. I, too, wanted to be without comeliness and beauty..unknown to all creatures.”On the eve of her profession she wrote to Sister Marie, “Tomorrow I shall be the bride of Jesus ‘whose face was hidden and whom no man knew’ – what a union and what a future!”. The meditation also helped her understand the humiliating situation of her father.

Usually the novitiate preceding profession lasted a year. Sister Thérèse hoped to make her final commitment on or after 11 January 1890 but, considered still too young for a final commitment, her profession was postponed. She would spend eight months longer than the standard year as an unprofessed novice. As 1889 ended, her old home in the world Les Buissonnets, was dismantled, the furniture divided among the Guérins and the Carmel. It was not until 8 September 1890, aged 17 and a half, that she made her religious profession. The retreat in anticipation of her “irrevocable promises” was characterized by “absolute aridity” and on the eve of her profession she gave way to panic. “What she wanted was beyond her. Her vocation was a sham”.

Reassured by the novice mistress and mother Marie de Gonzague, the next day her religious profession went ahead, ‘an outpouring of peace flooded my soul, “that peace which surpasseth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) Against her heart she wore her letter of profession written during her retreat. “May creatures be nothing for me, and may I be nothing for them, but may You, Jesus, be everything! Let nobody be occupied with me, let me be looked upon as one to be trampled underfoot…may Your will be done in me perfectly … Jesus, allow me to save very many souls; let no soul be lost today; let all the souls in purgatory be saved..” On September 24, the public ceremony followed filled with ‘sadness and bitterness’. “Thérèse found herself young enough, alone enough, to weep over the absence of Bishop Hugonin, Père Pichon, in Canada; and her own father, still confined in the asylum”. But Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the prioress of Tours, “The angelic child is seventeen and a half, with the sense of a 30 year old, the religious perfection of an old and accomplished novice, and possession of herself, she is a perfect nun”.

The Discreet life of a Carmelite (September 1890 – February 1893)

The years which followed were those of a maturation of her vocation. Thérèse prayed without great sensitive emotions, she multiplied the small acts of charity and care for others, doing small services, without making a show of them. She accepted criticism in silence, even unjust criticisms, and smiled at the sisters who were unpleasant to her. She prayed always much for priests, and in particular for Father Hyacinthe Loyson, a famous preacher who had been a Sulpician and a Dominican novice before becoming a Carmelite and provincial of his order, but who had left the Catholic Church in 1869. Three years later he married a young Protestant widow, with whom he had a son. After excommunication had been pronounced against him, he continued to travel round France giving lectures. While clerical papers called Loyson a “renegade monk” and Leon Bloy lampooned him, Thérèse prayed for her “brother”. She offered her last communion, 19 August 1897, for Father Loyson.

The chaplain of the Carmel, Father Youf insisted a lot on the fear of Hell. The preachers of spiritual retreats at that time did not refrain from stressing sin, the sufferings of purgatory, and those of hell. This did not help Thérèse who in 1891 experienced, “great inner trials of all kinds, even wondering sometimes whether heaven existed.” One phrase heard during a sermon made her weep—”No one knows if they are worthy of love or of hate.” But the retreat of October 1891 was preached by Father Alexis Prou, a Franciscan from Saint-Nazaire. “He specialized in large crowds (he preached in factories) and did not seem the right person to help Carmelites. Just one of them found comfort from him, Sister Thèrèse of the Child Jesus…[his] preaching on abandonment and mercy expanded her heart”.

This confirmed Thérèse in her own intuitions. She wrote, “My soul was like a book which the priest read better than I did. He launched me full sail on the waves of confidence and love which held such an attraction for me, but upon which I had not dared to venture. He told me that my faults did not offend God.” Her spiritual life drew more and more on the Gospels that she carried with her at all times. The piety of her time was fed more on commentaries, but Thérèse had asked Céline to get the Gospels and the Epistles of St Paul bound into a single small volume which she could carry on her heart. She said, “But it is especially the Gospels which sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul. I am constantly discovering in them new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings.”

More and more Thérèse realised that she felt no attraction to the exalted heights of “great souls”. She looked directly for the word of Jesus, which shed light on her prayers and on her daily life. Thérèse’s retreat in October 1892 pointed out to her a “downward” path. If asked where she lived, she reflected, must not she be able to answer with Christ, “The foxes have their lairs, the birds of heaven their nests, but I have no place to rest my head.” (Matthew 8:20). She wrote to Céline (letter 19 October 1892), “Jesus raised us above all the fragile things of this world whose image passes away. Like Zacchaeus, we climbed a tree to see Jesus and now let us listen to what he is saying to us. Make haste to descend, I must lodge today at your house. Well, Jesus tells us to descend?” “A question here of the interior,” she qualified in her letter, lest Céline think she meant renouncing food or shelter. “Thérèse knew her virtues, even her love, to be flawed, flawed by self, a mirror too clouded to reflect the divine.” She continued to seek to discover the means, “to more efficiently strip herself of self”. “No doubt, [our hearts] are already empty of creatures, but, alas, I feel mine is not entirely empty of myself, and it is for this reason that Jesus tells me to descend.”

Election of Mother Agnes

On 20 February 1893, Pauline was elected prioress of Carmel and became “Mother Agnes”. She appointed the former prioress novice mistress and made Thérèse her assistant. The work of guiding the novices would fall primarily to Thérèse. She repeated how important respect for the Rule was: “When any break the rule, this is not a reason to justify ourselves. Each must act as if the perfection of the Order depended on her personal conduct.” She also affirmed the essential role of obedience in religious life. She said, “When you stop watching the infallible compass [of obedience], as quickly the mind wanders in arid lands where the water of grace is soon lacking.”

Over the next few years she revealed a talent for clarifying doctrine to those who had not received as much education as she. A kaleidoscope, whose three mirrors transform scraps of coloured paper into beautiful designs, provided an inspired illustration for the Holy Trinity. “As long as our actions, even the smallest, do not fall away from the focus of Divine Love, the Holy Trinity, symbolized by the three mirrors, allows them to reflect wonderful beauty. Jesus, who regards us through the little lens, that is to say, through Himself, always sees beauty in everything we do. But if we left the focus of inexpressible love, what would He see? Bits of straw … dirty, worthless actions”. “Another cherished image was that of the newly invented elevator, a vehicle Thérèse used many times over to describe God’s grace, a force that lifts us to heights we can’t reach on our own”. Her sister Céline’s memoir is filled with numerous examples of the teacher Thérèse. “Céline: – ‘Oh! When I think how much I have to acquire!’ Thérèse: – ‘Rather, how much you have to lose! Jesus Himself will fill your soul with treasures in the same measure that you move your imperfections out of the way.” And Céline recalled a story Thérèse told about egotism. ‘The 28 month old Thérèse visited Le Mans and was given a basket filled with candies, at the top of which were two sugar rings. ‘Oh! How wonderful! There is a sugar ring for Céline too!’ On her way to the station however the basket overturned, and one of the sugar rings disappeared. ‘Ah, I no longer have any sugar ring for poor Céline!’ Reminding me of the incident she observed; ‘See how deeply rooted in us is this self-love! Why was it Céline’s sugar ring, and not mine, that was lost?’ Martha of Jesus, a novice who spent her childhood in a series of orphanages and who was described by all as emotionally unbalanced, with a violent temper, gave witness during the beatification process of the ‘unusual dedication and presence of her young teacher. “Thérèse deliberately ‘sought out the company of those nuns whose temperaments she found hardest to bear.’ What merit was there in acting charitably toward people whom one loved naturally? Thérèse went out of her way to spend time with, and therefore to love, the people she found repellent. It was an effective means of achieving interior poverty, a way to remove a place to rest her head”

In September 1893, Thérèse, having been a professed novice for the standard three years, asked not to be promoted but to continue a novice indefinitely. As a novice she would always have to ask permission of the other, full sisters. She would never be elected to any position of importance. Remaining closely associated with the other novices, she could continue to care for her spiritual charges. In 1841 Jules Michelet devoted the major part of the fifth volume of his History of France to a favourable presentation of the epic of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. Felix Dupanloup worked relentlessly for the glorification of Joan who, on 8 May 1429 had liberated Orléans, the city of which he became bishop in 1849. Thérèse wrote two plays in honour of her childhood heroine, the first about Joan’s response to the heavenly voices calling her to battle, the second about her resulting martyrdom.

1894 brought a national celebration of Joan of Arc. On 27 January, Leo XIII authorized the introduction of her cause of beatification, declaring Joan, the shepherdess from Lorraine ‘venerable’. Thérèse used Henri Wallon’s history of Joan of Arc – a book her uncle Isidore had given to the Carmel – to help her write two plays, ‘pious recreations’, “small theatrical pieces performed by a few nuns for the rest of the community, on the occasion of certain feast days.” The first of these, The Mission of Joan of Arc was performed at the Carmel on 21 January 1894, and the second Joan of Arc Accomplishes her Mission, exactly one year later, on 21 January 1895. In the estimation of one of her biographers, Ida Görres, they “are scarcely veiled self-portraits”. On 29 July 1894, Louis Martin died.

The discovery of the “little way”

Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux with the determination to become a saint. But, by the end of 1894, six full calendar years as a Carmelite made her realize how small and insignificant she was. She saw the limitations of all her efforts. She remained small and very far off from the unfailing love that she would wish to practice. She understood then that it was on this very littleness that she must learn to ask God’s help. Along with her camera, Céline had brought notebooks with her, passages from the Old Testament, which Thérèse did not have in Carmel. (The Louvain Bible, the translation authorized for French Catholics, did not include an Old Testament). In the notebooks Thérèse found a passage from Proverbs that struck her with particular force: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me” (9:4).

From the Book of Isaiah 66:12-13, she was struck by another passage: “you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you.” She concluded that Jesus would carry her to the summit of sanctity. The smallness of Thérèse, her limits, became in this way grounds for joy, more than discouragement. It is only in Manuscript C of her autobiography that she gave to this discovery the name of little way, petite voie.

I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. […] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.

In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote, Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

This little way of Therese is the foundation of her spirituality. Within the Catholic Church Thérèse’s way was known for some time as “the little way of spiritual childhood,”] but Thérèse actually wrote “little way” only three times, and she never wrote the phrase “spiritual childhood.” It was her sister Pauline who, after Thérèse’s death, adopted the phrase “the little way of spiritual childhood” to interpret Thérèse’s path. Years after Thérèse’s death, a Carmelite of Lisieux asked Pauline about this phrase and Pauline answered spontaneously “But you know well that Thérèse never used it! It is mine.” In May 1897, Thérèse wrote to Father Adolphe Roulland, “My way is all confidence and love.” To Maurice Bellière she wrote, “and I, with my way, will do more than you, so I hope that one day Jesus will make you walk by the same way as me.”

Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.

Offering to merciful love

At the end of the second play that Thérèse had written on Joan of Arc, the costume she wore almost caught fire. The alcohol stoves used to represent the stake at Rouen set fire to the screen behind which Thérèse stood. Thérèse did not flinch but the incident marked her. The theme of fire would assume an increasingly great place in her writings. On 9 June 1895, during a mass celebrating the feast of the Holy Trinity, Thérèse had a sudden inspiration that she must offer herself as a sacrificial victim to merciful love. At this time some nuns offered themselves as a victim to God’s justice. In her cell she drew up an ‘Act of Oblation’ for herself and for Céline, and on 11 June, the two knelt before the miraculous Virgin and Thérèse read the document she had written and signed. In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask you lord to count my works.. According to biographer Ida Görres the document echoed the happiness she had felt when Father Alexis Prou, the Franciscan preacher, had assured her that her faults did not cause God sorrow. In the Oblation she wrote, “If through weakness I should chance to fall, may a glance from Your Eyes straightway cleanse my soul, and consume all my imperfections – as fire transforms all things into itself”.

In August 1895 the four Martin sisters were joined by their cousin, Marie Guerin, in religion, Sister Marie of the Eucharist. Léonie, after several attempts, became Sister Françoise-Thérèse, a nun in the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary at Caen, where she died in 1941.

At age 14, she understood her vocation to pray for priests, to be “an apostle to apostles”. In September 1890, at her canonical examination before she professed her religious vows, she was asked why she had come to Carmel. She answered “I came to save souls, and especially to pray for priests”. Throughout her life she prayed fervently for priests, and she corresponded with and prayed for a young priest, Adolphe Roulland, and a young seminarian, Maurice Bellière. She wrote to her sister “Our mission as Carmelites is to form evangelical workers who will save thousands of souls whose mothers we shall be.”

In October 1895 a young seminarian and subdeacon of the White Fathers, Abbé Bellière, asked the Carmel of Lisieux for a nun who would support – by prayer and sacrifice – his missionary work, and the souls that were in the future to be entrusted to him. Mother Agnes designated Thérèse. She never met Father Bellière but ten letters passed between them.

A year later Father Adolphe Roulland (1870–1934) of the Society of Foreign Missions requested the same service of the Lisieux Carmel. Once more Thérèse was assigned the duties of spiritual sister. “It is quite clear that Thérèse, in spite of all her reverence for the priestly office, in both cases felt herself to be the teacher and the giver. It is she who consoles and warns, encourages and praises, answers questions, offers corroboration, and instructs the priests in the meaning of her little way”.

The final years

Thérèse’s final years were marked by a steady decline that she bore resolutely and without complaint. Tuberculosis was the key element of Thérèse’s final suffering, but she saw that as part of her spiritual journey. After observing a rigorous Lenten fast in 1896, she went to bed on the eve of Good Friday and felt a joyous sensation. She wrote: “Oh! how sweet this memory really is! … I had scarcely laid my head upon the pillow when I felt something like a bubbling stream mounting to my lips. I didn’t know what it was.” The next morning her handkerchief was soaked in blood and she understood her fate. Coughing up of blood meant tuberculosis, and tuberculosis meant death.She wrote, “I thought immediately of the joyful thing that I had to learn, so I went over to the window. I was able to see that I was not mistaken. Ah! my soul was filled with a great consolation; I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus, on the anniversary of His own death, wanted to have me hear His first call!”

Thérèse corresponded with a Carmelite mission in what was then French Indochina and was invited to join them, but, because of her sickness, could not travel. As a result of tuberculosis, she suffered terribly. When she was near death, “Her physical suffering kept increasing so that even the doctor himself was driven to exclaim, “Ah! If you only knew what this young nun was suffering!” During the last hours of Thérèse’s life, she said, “I would never have believed it was possible to suffer so much, never, never!” In July 1897, she made a final move to the monastery infirmary. On August 19, 1897, she received her last communion. She died on 30 September 1897, aged 24. On her death-bed, she is reported to have said, “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me.” Her last words were, “My God, I love you!”

Thérèse was buried on 4 October 1897, in the Carmelite plot, in the municipal cemetery at Lisieux, where her parents had been buried. Her body was exhumed in September 1910 and the remains placed in a lead coffin and transferred to another tomb. In March 1923, however, before she was beatified, her body was returned to the Carmel of Lisieux, where it remains. The figure of Thérèse in the glass coffin is not her actual body but a gisant statue based on drawings and photos by Céline after Thérèse’s death. It contains her ribcage and other remnants of her body.

Spirituality

To the right and to the left, I throw to my little birds the good grain that God places in my hands. And then I let things take their course! I busy myself with it no more. Sometimes, it’s just as though I had thrown nothing; at other times, it does some good. But God tells me: ‘Give, give always, without being concerned with the results’.

Together with Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most popular Roman Catholic saints since apostolic times. She is approachable, due in part to her historical proximity. Barbara Stewart, writing for The New York Times, once called Thérèse “…the Emily Dickinson of Roman Catholic sainthood”.

As a Doctor of the Church, she is the subject of much theological comment and study, and, as a young woman whose message has touched the lives of millions, she remains the focus of much popular devotion. She was a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics in the first half of the twentieth century because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life.

Thérèse was devoted to Eucharistic meditation and on 26 February 1895, shortly before she died wrote from memory and without a rough draft her poetic masterpiece “To Live by Love” which she had composed during Eucharistic meditation. During her life, the poem was sent to various religious communities and was included in a notebook of her poems.

Thérèse lived a hidden life and “wanted to be unknown”, yet became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography. She also left letters, poems, religious plays, prayers, and her last conversations were recorded by her sisters. Paintings and photographs – mostly the work of her sister Céline – further led to her becoming known.

Thérèse said on her death-bed, “I only love simplicity. I have a horror of pretence”, and she spoke out against some of the claims made concerning the Lives of saints written in her day, “We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined lives”. The depth of her spirituality, of which she said, “my way is all confidence and love”, has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. “I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus”. The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was promoted by another Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St Peter in Tours, France in 1844. Then by Leo Dupont, also known as the Apostle of the Holy Face who formed the “Archconfraternity of the Holy Face” in Tours in 1851. Therese joined this confraternity on April 26, 1885. Her parents, Louis and Zélie Martin, had also prayed at the Oratory of the Holy Face, originally established by Dupont in Tours.This devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was based on images of the Veil of Veronica, as promoted by Dupont, rather than the Shroud of Turin, which image first appeared on a photographic negative in 1898.

On 10 January 1889, she was given the habit and received the name Thérèse of the Child Jesus. On 8 September 1890, Thérèse took her vows. The ceremony of taking the veil followed on the 24th, when she added to her name in religion, “of the Holy Face”, a title which was to become increasingly important in the development and character of her inner life. In his “A l’ecole de Therese de Lisieux: maitresse de la vie spirituelle, “Bishop Guy Gaucher emphasizes that Therese saw the devotions to the Child Jesus and to the Holy Face as so completely linked that she signed herself “Therese de l’Enfant Jesus de la Sainte Face”—Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. In her poem “My Heaven down here”, composed in 1895, Therese expressed the notion that by the divine union of love, the soul takes on the semblance of Christ. By contemplating the sufferings associated with the Holy Face of Jesus, she felt she could become closer to Christ. She wrote the words “Make me resemble you, Jesus!” on a small card and attached a stamp with an image of the Holy Face. She pinned the prayer in a small container over her heart.

Thérèse wrote many prayers to express her devotion to the Holy Face. In August 1895, in her “Canticle to the Holy Face,” she wrote:

“Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears when I contemplate Your sorrows.”

Thérèse emphasised God’s mercy in both the birth and the passion narratives in the Gospel. She wrote, “He sees it disfigured, covered with blood!… unrecognizable!… And yet the divine Child does not tremble; this is what He chooses to show His love”.

She composed the “Holy Face Prayer for Sinners”,

“Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners.”

Over the decades, her poems and prayers helped to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Autobiography – The Story of a Soul

St. Thérèse is best known today for her spiritual memoir, L’histoire d’une âme (The Story of a Soul). It is a compilation of three separate manuscripts. The first, in 1895 is a memoir of her childhood, written under obedience to the Prioress, Mother Agnes of Jesus, her older sister Pauline. Mother Agnes gave the order after being prompted by their eldest sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart.

The second is a three-page letter, written in September 1896, at the request of her eldest sister Marie, who, aware of the seriousness of Thérèse’s illness, asked her to set down her “little doctrine”. In June 1897, Mother Agnes asked Mother Marie de Gonzague, who had succeeded her as prioress, to allow Thérèse to write another memoir with more details of her religious life, (ostensibly as a help in the later composition of an anticipated obituary).

While on her deathbed Thérèse made a number of references to the book’s future appeal and benefit to souls. She authorized Pauline to make any changes deemed necessary. It was heavily edited by Pauline (Mother Agnes), who made more than seven thousand revisions to Therese’s manuscript and presented it as a biography of her sister. Aside from considerations of style, Mother Marie de Gonzague had ordered Pauline to alter the first two sections of the manuscript to make them appear as if they were addressed to Mother Marie as well. The book was sent out as the customary “circular” advising other Carmels of a nuns death and requesting their prayers. However, it received a much wider circulation, a copies were lent out and passed around.

Since 1973, two centenary editions of Thérèse’s original, unedited manuscripts, including The Story of a Soul, her letters, poems, prayers and the plays she wrote for the monastery recreations have been published in French. ICS Publications has issued a complete critical edition of her writings: Story of a Soul, Last Conversations, and the two volumes of her letters were translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.; The Poetry of Saint Thérèse by Donald Kinney, O.C.D.; The Prayers of St. Thérèse by Alethea Kane, O.C.D.; and The Religious Plays of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by David Dwyer and Susan Conroy.

Development of the cultus of St. Thérèse

Céline Martin entered the Lisieux convent on 14 September 1894. With Mother Agnes’ permission, she brought her camera to Carmel, and developing materials. “The indulgence was not by any means usual. Also outside of the normal would be the destiny of those photographs Céline would make in the Carmel, images that would be scrutinized and reproduced too many times to count. Even when the images are poorly reproduced, her eyes arrest us. Described as blue, described as gray, they look darker in photographs. Céline’s pictures of her sister contributed to the extraordinary cult of personality that formed in the years after Thérèse’s death”.

In 1902, the Polish Carmelite Father Raphael Kalinowski (later Saint Raphael Kalinowski) translated her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, into Polish.[105] As early as 1912 Father Thomas N. Taylor, a teacher at the Diocese of Glasgow seminary, wrote a short hagiography on Thérèse, two years before the case for her canonization would be opened. Taylor went on to become a significant proponent of devotion to “The Little Flower” in Scotland. As pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Carfin, Lanarkshire, he built a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes and included a small shrine honoring St. Thérèse with a statue donated by the Legion of Mary. Carfin became a sight of pilgrimages.

Canonization

The impact of The Story of a Soul, a collection of her autobiographical manuscripts, printed and distributed a year after her death to an initially very limited audience, was significant. Pope Pius XI made her the “star of his pontificate”. Pius X signed the decree for the opening of the process of canonization on 10 June 1914.

Pope Benedict XV, in order to hasten the process, dispensed with the usual fifty-year delay required between death and beatification. On 14 August 1921, he promulgated the decree on the heroic virtues of Thérèse declaring her “Venerable”. She was beatified on 29 April 1923.

Therese was canonized on 17 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI, only 28 years after her death. Thérèse was declared a saint five years and a day after Joan of Arc. However, the 1925 celebration for Thérèse “far outshone” that for the legendary heroine of France. At the time, Pope Pius XI revived the old custom of covering St. Peter’s with torches and tallow lamps. According to one account, “Ropes, lamps and tallows were pulled from the dusty storerooms where they had been packed away for 55 years. A few old workmen who remembered how it was done the last time — in 1870 — directed 300 men for two weeks as they climbed about fastening lamps to St. Peter’s dome.” The New York Times ran a front-page story about the occasion titled, “All Rome Admires St. Peter’s Aglow for a New Saint”. According to the Times, over 60,000 people, estimated to be the largest crowd inside St. Peter’s Basilica since the coronation of Pope Saint Pius X, 22 years before, witnessed the canonization ceremonies. In the evening, 500,000 pilgrims pressed into the lit square.

She rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Her feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar in for celebration on October 3. In 1969, 42 years later, Pope Paul VI moved it to October 1, the day after her dies natalis (birthday to heaven).

Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of aviators, florists, illness(es) and missions. She is also considered by Catholics to be the patron saint of Russia, although the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize either her canonization or her patronage. In 1927, Pope Pius XI named Thérèse co-patron of the missions, with Saint Francis Xavier. In 1944 Pope Pius XII decreed her a co-patron of France with Saint Joan of Arc. The principal patron of France is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

By the Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia (The Science of Divine Love) of 19 October 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church,, the youngest person, and one of only four women so named, the others being Teresa of Ávila (Saint Teresa of Jesus), Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena.

Devotion to Thérèse has developed around the world. According to some biographies of Édith Piaf, in 1922 the singer — at the time, an unknown seven-year-old girl — was cured from blindness after a pilgrimage to the grave of Thérèse, who at the time was not yet formally canonized.

Source: Wikipedia

Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, Martyrs

Matthew 10:7-15

You received without charge: give without charge

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.

‘Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.’


Hosea 11:1-4,8-9

I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy

Thus says the Lord:

When Israel was a child I loved him,

and I called my son out of Egypt.

But the more I called to them, the further they went from me;

they have offered sacrifice to the Baals

and set their offerings smoking before the idols.

I myself taught Ephraim to walk,

I took them in my arms;

yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.

I led them with reins of kindness,

with leading-strings of love.

I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek;

stooping down to him I gave him his food.

Ephraim, how could I part with you?

Israel, how could I give you up?

How could I treat you like Admah,

or deal with you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils from it,

my whole being trembles at the thought.

I will not give rein to my fierce anger,

I will not destroy Ephraim again,

for I am God, not man:

I am the Holy One in your midst

and have no wish to destroy.


Psalm 79(80):2-3,15-16

Let your face shine on us, O Lord, and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,

shine forth from your cherubim throne.

O Lord, rouse up your might,

O Lord, come to our help.

Let your face shine on us, O Lord, and we shall be saved.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,

look down from heaven and see.

Visit this vine and protect it,

the vine your right hand has planted.

Let your face shine on us, O Lord, and we shall be saved.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act. Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”  The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.” It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty.” The competent authority determines these “offerings” in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers. “The laborer deserves his food.”


Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions, are saints of the Roman Catholic Church. The 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries, from the mid-17th century to 1930, were martyred because of their ministry and, in some cases, for their refusal to apostatize.

Many died in the Boxer Rebellion, in which xenophobic peasants slaughtered 30,000 Chinese converts to Christianity along with missionaries and other foreigners.

In the ordinary form of the Latin Rite they are remembered with an optional memorial on July 9.

Source: Wikipedia

Francis of Assisi, Rel

+Luke 10:1-12

Your peace will rest on that man

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

Job 19:21-27

My Avenger lives and will set me close to him when I awake

 

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, you, my friends,

for the hand of God has struck me.

Why do you hound me down like God,

will you never have enough of my flesh?

Ah, would that these words of mine were written down,

inscribed on some monument

with iron chisel and engraving tool,

cut into the rock for ever.

This I know: that my Avenger lives,

and he, the Last, will take his stand on earth.

After my awaking, he will set me close to him,

and from my flesh I shall look on God.

He whom I shall see will take my part:

these eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act. Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.” The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.” It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty.” The competent authority determines these “offerings” in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers. “The laborer deserves his food.”


Psalm 26(27):7-9,13-14

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;

have mercy and answer.

Of you my heart has spoken:

‘Seek his face.’

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;

hide not your face.

Dismiss not your servant in anger;

you have been my help.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness

in the land of the living.

Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.

Hope in the Lord!

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.


Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian: San Francesco d’Assisi), born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226), was an Italian Roman Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. He is often remembered as the patron saint of animals.

In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the Order. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. Francis is also known for his love of the Eucharist. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene. According to Christian tradition, in 1224 he received the stigmata during the apparition of Seraphic angels in a religious ecstasy  making him the first recorded person in Christian history to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. He died during the evening hours of 3 October 1226, while listening to a reading he had requested of Psalm 142 (141).

Early life

Francis of Assisi was one of seven children born in late 1181 or early 1182 to Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant, and his wife Pica de Bourlemont, about whom little is known except that she was a noblewoman originally from Provence. Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, and Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. Upon his return to Assisi, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco (“the Frenchman”), possibly in honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French. Since the child was renamed in infancy, the change can hardly have had anything to do with his aptitude for learning French, as some have thought.

While going off to war in 1202, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. In 1205, Francis left for Apulia to enlist in the army of Walter III, Count of Brienne.

Francis lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. In 1201, he joined a military expedition against Perugia and was taken as a prisoner at Collestrada, spending a year as a captive. It is possible that his spiritual conversion was a gradual process rooted in this experience. Upon his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis returned to his carefree life. In 1204, a serious illness led him to a spiritual crisis.

A strange vision made him return to Assisi, deepening his ecclesiastical awakening. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica, an experience that moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon gathered followers. His Order was authorized by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which became an enclosed religious order for women, as well as the Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance (commonly called the Third Order). As a youth, Francesco became a devotee of troubadours and was fascinated with all things Transalpine. Although many hagiographers remark about his bright clothing, rich friends, and love of pleasures, his displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him came fairly early in his life, as is shown in the “story of the beggar”. In this account, he was selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace on behalf of his father when a beggar came to him and asked for alms. At the conclusion of his business deal, Francis abandoned his wares and ran after the beggar. When he found him, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends quickly chided and mocked him for his act of charity. When he got home, his father scolded him in rage.

According to the hagiographic legend, thereafter he began to avoid the sports and the feasts of his former companions. In response, they asked him laughingly whether he was thinking of marrying, to which he answered, “Yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen”, meaning his “Lady Poverty”. He spent much time in lonely places, asking God for spiritual enlightenment. By degrees he took to nursing lepers, the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi. After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he joined the poor in begging at the doors of the churches, he said he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified said to him, “Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” He took this to mean the ruined church in which he was presently praying, and so he sold some cloth from his father’s store to assist the priest there for this purpose.

His father, Pietro, who was highly indignant, attempted to change his mind, first with threats and then with beatings. In the midst of legal proceedings before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the garments he had received from him in front of the public. For the next couple of months he lived as a beggar in the region of Assisi. Returning to the countryside around the town for two years, he embraced the life of a penitent, during which he restored several ruined chapels in the countryside around Assisi, among them the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels just outside the town, which later became his favorite abode.

Founding of the Franciscan Orders

The Friars minor

At the end of this period (on February 24, 1209, according to Jordan of Giano), Francis heard a sermon that changed his life forever. The sermon was about Matthew 10:9, in which Christ tells his followers they should go forth and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, that they should take no money with them, nor even a walking stick or shoes for the road. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty.

Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Gospel precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance. He was soon joined by his first follower, a prominent fellow townsman, the jurist Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to the work. Within a year Francis had eleven followers. Francis chose never to be ordained a priest, and the community lived as “lesser brothers”, fratres minores in Latin. The brothers lived a simple life in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time wandering through the mountainous districts of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression upon their hearers by their earnest exhortations.

Francis’ preaching to ordinary people was unusual since he had no license to do so. In 1209 he composed a simple rule for his followers (“friars”), the Regula primitiva or “Primitive Rule”, which came from verses in the Bible.

The rule was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps”. In 1209, Francis led his first eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious Order. Upon entry to Rome, the brothers encountered Bishop Guido of Assisi, who had in his company Giovanni di San Paolo, the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina. The Cardinal, who was the confessor of Pope Innocent III, was immediately sympathetic to Francis and agreed to represent Francis to the pope. Reluctantly, Pope Innocent agreed to meet with Francis and the brothers the next day. After several days, the pope agreed to admit the group informally, adding that when God increased the group in grace and number, they could return for an official admittance. The group was tonsured. This was important in part because it recognized Church authority and prevented his following from possible accusations of heresy, as had happened to the Waldensians decades earlier. Though Pope Innocent initially had his doubts, following a dream in which he saw Francis holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran (the cathedral of Rome, thus the ‘home church’ of all Christendom), he decided to endorse Francis’ Order. This occurred, according to tradition, on April 16, 1210, and constituted the official founding of the Franciscan Order. The group, then the “Lesser Brothers” (Order of Friars Minor also known as the Franciscan Order or the Seraphic Order), preached on the streets and had no possessions. They were centered in the Porziuncola and preached first in Umbria, before expanding throughout Italy.

The Poor Clares and the Third Order

From then on, the new Order grew quickly with new vocations. Hearing Francis preaching in the church of San Rufino in Assisi in 1211, the young noblewoman Clare of Assisi became deeply touched by his message and realized her calling. Her cousin Rufino, the only male member of the family in their generation, was also attracted to the new Order (which he joined). On the night of Palm Sunday, March 28, 1212, Clare clandestinely left her family’s palace. Francis received her at the Porziuncola and thereby established the Order of Poor Ladies, later called Poor Clares. This was an Order for women, and he gave Clare a religious habit, or garment, similar to his own, before lodging her and a few female companions in a nearby monastery of Benedictine nuns. Later he transferred them to San Damiano. There they were joined by many other women of Assisi. For those who could not leave their homes, he later formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, a fraternity composed of either laity or clergy whose members neither withdrew from the world nor took religious vows. Instead, they observed the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives. Before long, this Third Order grew beyond Italy.

Travels

Determined to bring the Gospel to all God’s creatures, Francis sought on several occasions to take his message out of Italy. In the late spring of 1212, he set out for Jerusalem, but he was shipwrecked by a storm on the Dalmatian coast, forcing him to return to Italy. On May 8, 1213, he was given the use of the mountain of La Verna (Alverna) as a gift from Count Orlando di Chiusi, who described it as “eminently suitable for whoever wishes to do penance in a place remote from mankind”. The mountain would become one of his favourite retreats for prayer.

In the same year, Francis sailed for Morocco, but this time an illness forced him to break off his journey in Spain. Back in Assisi, several noblemen (among them Tommaso da Celano, who would later write the biography of St. Francis) and some well-educated men joined his Order. In 1215, Francis went again to Rome for the Fourth Lateran Council. During this time, he probably met a canon, Dominic de Guzman (later to be Saint Dominic, the founder of the Friars Preachers, another Catholic religious order). In 1217, he offered to go to France. Cardinal Ugolino of Segni (the future Pope Gregory IX), an early and important supporter of Francis, advised him against this and said that he was still needed in Italy.

In 1219, accompanied by another friar and hoping to convert the Sultan of Egypt or win martyrdom in the attempt, Francis went to Egypt during the Fifth Crusade where a Crusader army had been encamped for over a year besieging the walled city of Damietta two miles (3.2 kilometres) upstream from the mouth of one of the main channels of the Nile. The Sultan, al-Kamil, a nephew of Saladin, had succeeded his father as Sultan of Egypt in 1218 and was encamped upstream of Damietta, unable to relieve it. A bloody and futile attack on the city was launched by the Christians on August 29, 1219, following which both sides agreed to a ceasefire which lasted four weeks. It was most probably during this interlude that Francis and his companion crossed the Muslims lines and were brought before the Sultan, remaining in his camp for a few days. The visit is reported in contemporary Crusader sources and in the earliest biographies of Francis, but they give no information about what transpired during the encounter beyond noting that the Sultan received Francis graciously and that Francis preached to the Muslims without effect, returning unharmed to the Crusader camp. No contemporary Arab source mentions the visit. One detail, added by Bonaventure in the official life of Francis (written forty years after the event), has Francis offering to challenge the Sultan’s “priests” to trial-by-fire in order to prove the veracity of the Christian Gospel.

Such an incident is alluded to in a scene in the late 13th-century fresco cycle, attributed to Giotto, in the upper basilica at Assisi. It has been suggested that the winged figures atop the columns piercing the roof of the building on the left of the scene are not idols but are part of the secular iconography of the sultan, affirming his worldly power which, as the scene demonstrates, is limited even as regards his own “priests” who shun the challenge. Although Bonaventure asserts that the sultan refused to permit the challenge, subsequent biographies went further, claiming that a fire was actually kindled which Francis unhesitatingly entered without suffering burns. The scene in the fresco adopts a position midway between the two extremes.

According to some late sources, the Sultan gave Francis permission to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land and even to preach there. All that can safely be asserted is that Francis and his companion left the Crusader camp for Acre, from where they embarked for Italy in the latter half of 1220. Drawing on a 1267 sermon by Bonaventure, later sources report that the Sultan secretly converted or accepted a death-bed baptism as a result of the encounter with Francis. The Franciscan Order has been present in the Holy Land almost uninterruptedly since 1217 when Brother Elias arrived at Acre. It received concessions from the Mameluke Sultan in 1333 with regard to certain Holy Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and (so far as concerns the Catholic Church) jurisdictional privileges from Pope Clement VI in 1342.

Reorganization of the Franciscan Order and death

By this time, the growing Order of friars was divided into provinces and groups were sent to France, Germany, Hungary, and Spain and to the East. Upon receiving a report of the martyrdom of five brothers in Morocco, Francis returned to Italy via Venice. Cardinal Ugolino di Conti was then nominated by the Pope as the protector of the Order. Another reason for Francis’ return to Italy was that the friars in Italy were causing problems. The Franciscan Order had grown at an unprecedented rate compared to prior religious orders, but its organizational sophistication had not kept up with this growth and had little more to govern it than Francis’ example and simple rule. To address this problem, Francis prepared a new and more detailed Rule, the “First Rule” or “Rule Without a Papal Bull” (Regula prima, Regula non bullata), which again asserted devotion to poverty and the apostolic life. However, it also introduced greater institutional structure though this was never officially endorsed by the pope.

On September 29, 1220, Francis handed over the governance of the Order to Brother Peter Catani at the Porziuncola, but Brother Peter died only five months later, on March 10, 1221, and was buried there. When numerous miracles were attributed to the deceased brother, people started to flock to the Porziuncola, disturbing the daily life of the Franciscans. Francis then prayed, asking Peter to stop the miracles and to obey in death as he had obeyed during his life.

The reports of miracles ceased. Brother Peter was succeeded by Brother Elias as Vicar of Francis. Two years later, Francis modified the “First Rule”, creating the “Second Rule” or “Rule With a Bull”, which was approved by Pope Honorius III on November 29, 1223. As the official Rule of the Order, it called on the friars “to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own and in chastity”. In addition, it set regulations for discipline, preaching, and entry into the Order. Once the Rule was endorsed by the Pope, Francis withdrew increasingly from external affairs. During 1221 and 1222, Francis crossed Italy, first as far south as Catania in Sicily and afterwards as far north as Bologna.

While he was praying on the mountain of Verna, during a forty-day fast in preparation for Michaelmas (September 29), Francis is said to have had a vision on or about September 14, 1224, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as a result of which he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who had been with Francis at the time, left a clear and simple account of the event, the first definite account of the phenomenon of stigmata. “Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ.” Suffering from these stigmata and from trachoma, Francis received care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end, he was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola. Here, in the place where it all began, feeling the end approaching, he spent the last days of his life dictating his spiritual Testament. He died on the evening of Saturday, October 3, 1226, singing Psalm 142 (141), “Voce mea ad Dominum”. On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX (the former cardinal Ugolino di Conti, friend of Saint Francis and Cardinal Protector of the Order). The next day, the Pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. Francis was buried on May 25, 1230, under the Lower Basilica, but his tomb was soon hidden on orders of Brother Elias to protect it from Saracen invaders. His exact burial place remained unknown until it was re-discovered in 1818. Pasquale Belli then constructed for the remains a crypt in neo-classical style in the Lower Basilica. It was refashioned between 1927 and 1930 into its present form by Ugo Tarchi, stripping the wall of its marble decorations. In 1978, the remains of Saint Francis were examined and confirmed by a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Paul VI, and put into a glass urn in the ancient stone tomb.

Character and legacy

It has been argued that no one else in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way—Francis is sometimes even remembered as alter Christus, “another Christ.” This is important in understanding Francis’ character and his affinity for the Eucharist and respect for the priests who carried out the sacrament.

He and his followers celebrated and even venerated poverty. Poverty was so central to his character that in his last written work, the Testament, he said that absolute personal and corporate poverty was the essential lifestyle for the members of his Order.

He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters”, and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. In his Canticle of the Creatures (“Praises of Creatures” or “Canticle of the Sun”), he mentioned the “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”, the wind and water, and “Sister Death”. He referred to his chronic illnesses as his “sisters”. His deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced others, and he declared that “he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died”.

Francis’ visit to Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world had far-reaching consequences, long past his own death, since after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom, it would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as “Custodians of the Holy Land” on behalf of the Catholic Church.

At Greccio near Assisi, around 1220, Francis celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known presepio or crèche (Nativity scene). His nativity imagery reflected the scene in traditional paintings. He used real animals to create a living scene so that the worshipers could contemplate the birth of the child Jesus in a direct way, making use of the senses, especially sight. Thomas of Celano, a biographer of both Francis and Saint Bonaventure, tells how he used only a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey. According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity, with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.

Source: Wikipedia

Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

+Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act. Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.” The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.” It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty.” The competent authority determines these “offerings” in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers. “The laborer deserves his food.”


Psalm 18(19):8-11

For the leader. Of David, the servant of the LORD, who sang to the LORD the words of this song after the LORD had rescued him from the clutches of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

He said: I love you, LORD, my strength,

LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!

Praised be the LORD, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.

The breakers of death surged round about me; the menacing floods terrified me.

The cords of Sheol tightened; the snares of death lay in wait for me.

In my distress I called out: LORD! I cried out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry to him reached his ears.

The earth rocked and shook; the foundations of the mountains trembled; they shook as his wrath flared up.

Smoke rose in his nostrils, a devouring fire poured from his mouth; it kindled coals into flame.

He parted the heavens and came down, a dark cloud under his feet.

Mounted on a cherub he flew, borne along on the wings of the wind.

He made darkness the cover about him; his canopy, heavy thunderheads.

Before him scudded his clouds, hail and lightning too.

The LORD thundered from heaven; the Most High made his voice resound.

Source: The New American Bible