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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

The miracle that made Elizabeth of the Trinity a canonized saint: the healing of Marie-Paul Stevens. June 20, 2016

 

Photo of Marie-Paul Stevens, whose cure was certified as the miracle for the canonization of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. Released by the Dijon Carmel June 20, 2016

The story of the healing of Marie-Paul Stevens

The first photograph of Marie-Paul Stevens, the Belgian woman whose healing was accepted as the miracle for the canonization of Elizabeth of the Trinity (announced by Pope Francis today to take place on October 26, 2016) was released today by the Carmel of Dijon, with new details about her story.


Diagnosis with Sjogren's syndrome; treatment

In 1997 Marie-Paul Stevens, a Belgian woman, was a professor of religion at the Institute of the Marist Brothers in Malmedy.  She was then 39 years old.  In May she started to have trouble speaking and developed other symptoms.  On the advice of a friend, she underwent various medical tests, and, some weeks later, was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease.  Her sickness advanced; the government asked her to retire early, and she had to leave her profession in 1998.  Although Marie-Paul received chemotherapy and other treatment, her health grew worse.  In 2000 and 2001, she became more and more disabled and was in unbearable pain.

Prayer for healing

Since her adolescence, Marie-Paul had loved Elizabeth of the Trinity and had prayed for her intercession.  Now all her friends, together with the nuns of the Carmel of Dijon (now in Flavignerot, where the nuns had moved in 1979), continued to pray the novena to Blessed Elizabeth to ask for Marie-Paul's healing. The patient herself did not ask to be cured, but she wanted to go on pilgrimage to the Carmel of Flavignerot before she died to thank Elizabeth, who had accompanied her so powerfully during her illness.

The patient makes a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to pray at Elizabeth's Carmel before she dies

Accompanied by friends, Marie-Paul came as a pilgrim to the Carmel of Flavignerot.  On April 2, 2002, in the chapel of the Carmel, she prayed and gave thanks to Elizabeth for sustaining her during her five-year illness.  Coming out of the chapel exhausted, she sat down to rest on one of the rocks that edged the monastery's parking lot. All at once she stood up, raised her hands to heaven, and cried out in amazement and happiness "I'm not in pain any more!"  From that day she has been well.

Restored to health, Marie-Paul makes a second pilgrimage of thanksgiving on foot

Just a few months later, Marie-Paul was able to walk 350 kilometers (217 miles) on a pilgrimage to give thanks.  It took some time, and many medical examinations, till the happy day when, on March 3, 2016, Pope Francis authorized Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to promulgate the decree approving the cure of Marie-Paul Stevens as a miracle attributable to the intercession of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.  It was this which opened the way for Elizabeth's canonization, and Pope Francis announced today that she will be canonized on Sunday, October 16, 2016. 

Blessings

Marie-Paul, we thank you for your faith and endurance, and we rejoice in your cure and in God's having chosen you as an instrument to make soon-to-be-Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity known and loved.  May she accompany you more and more closely.

In the radiance of Therese: Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity to be canonized on October 16, 2016

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity January or February 1903

This morning, June 20, 2016, at a public consistory, Pope Francis announced the canonization of five saints, including Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a  young Carmelite mystic of Dijon, France (1880-1906) who was an early and fervent disciple of  Therese.  Elizabeth will be canonized on Sunday, October 16, 2016 in Rome. This is a day of thanksgiving for all who love Therese.

 The Canonization Miracle for Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Marie-Paul Stevens, the Belgian woman whose cure was accepted as the miracle necessary for the canonization of Elizabeth of the Trinity. Photo Credit: Carmel of Dijon

Click here to read the story of the miracle approved for the canonization of Elizabeth of the Trinity, with a few lines about her life and Therese's influence on her.

 To know more about Elizabeth of the Trinity:

 

 Light Love Life - Elizabeth of the Trinity: a Look at a Face and a Heart

edited by Fr. Conrad De Meester and the Carmel of Dijon; translated Sr. Aletheia Kane, O.C.D. Editorial Assistant: Fr. John Sullivan, O.C.D.  A beautiful photographic album lavishly illustrated with photos of Elizabeth and her milieu, enriched with texts that will attract those new to Elizabeth and her old friends.  A marvelous introduction for her new friends, a treasure for her old friends. 

Two Sisters in the Spirit, by Hans Urs von Balthasar, S.J., the distinguished Jesuit theologian, shows how Therese and Elizabeth each complement the contemplative life of the other.  edited by Fr. Conrad De Meester and the Carmel of Dijon; translated Sr. Aletheia Kane, O.C.D. Editorial Assistant: Fr. John Sullivan, O.C.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth's Writings

Fr. Conrad De Meester, O.C.D., who has interpreted Therese so brilliantly, edited in three volumes the critical edition of Elizabeth's writings.  "Vol. I: General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings" and Volume II, Letters from Carmelhave been published in English.  We are awaiting publication of the third volume in English.

Elizabeth's letters from Carmel are at once profound and accessible.  I can't recommend them highly enough.  

 

For a biography in English, consult He Is My Heaven:  The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity by Jennifer Moorcroft.

 

The Abysses of Love and Mercy of the Heart of Jesus: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the Sacred Heart - June 3, 2016

"Sacred Heart" icon by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

 

Therese Martin at 15Thérèse Martin grew up in the Church of late 19th century France, in which the cult of the Sacred Heart was omnipresent, a cult of reparation shaped most recently by the humiliation of France during the Franco-Prussian war.  Her family’s spiritual director, Father Almire Pichon, was called an apostle of the Sacred Heart.  Her sister Marie took “of the Sacred Heart” as her religious name, and the Carmelite monastery Thérèse entered was dedicated to the Sacred Heart.  Basilica of the Sacred Heart at MontmartreIn 1887 Thérèse participated in a pilgrimage to Rome intended to show the French church’s loyalty to the embattled Pope Leo XIII on his priestly jubilee.  With the other pilgrims, before leaving Paris Thérèse was consecrated to the Sacred Heart in the crypt of the unfinished Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre.  Later she sent her gold bracelet to form part of the large monstrance at the basilica.  And, like all the pilgrims, she wore the badge of the Sacred Heart. 

But Thérèse had no interest whatever in any cult of the Sacred Heart which was focused on making reparation for the outrages of sin.  Nor did she relate to the Sacred Heart as a national symbol.  The pilgrim Thérèse was seeking only Jesus.   She appropriated the Heart of Jesus in an intensely personal and relational way.  For Thérèse the Heart of Jesus is always for her, and it always seeks a response from her heart.  At fifteen she called Jesus “Him whose heart beats in unison with my own.”[1]  At seventeen she wrote to her sister Céline, who was at Paray-le-Monial with their sister Leonie for the second centenary of the death of then-Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received visions of the Sacred Heart:

Pray to the Sacred Heart; you know that I myself do not see the Sacred Heart as everybody else.[2]  I think that the heart of my Spouse is mine alone, just as mine is His alone,[3] and I speak to Him then in the solitude of this delightful heart to heart, while waiting to contemplate Him one day face to face. . .  [4]

In June 1895, the “year of the Sacred Heart” for Thérèse, she had a new experience of the heart of God:

I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God’s Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sin­ners, drawing them upon themselves.  This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it.  From the depths of my heart, I cried out:

"O my God!  Will Your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does not Your Merciful Love need them too? . . . .  On every side this love is unknown, rejected. . . . . .  O my God!  Is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You.[5]

 Thérèse experienced God not as outraged justice exacting atonement from her but as rejected love arousing her compassion and inviting her to be a channel of God’s infinite love to humanity.  In her poem “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” written either in June or in October 1895 for her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart, Thérèse returns to many of the themes of her “Offering of myself as a victim of Holocaust to Merciful Love.”[6]   The editors of her poetry write:

 “Thérèse does not linger over the symbol of Christ’s Heart wounded by the lance, which was so popular in her day.  She goes straight to the reality: the loving Person of Jesus, his deep feelings, and the love that fills his Heart.”[7]

She speaks of the heart her own heart desires: 

I need a heart burning with tenderness

Who will be my support forever,

Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…

And who never leaves me day or night.”[8]

She finds this heart in the humanity of Jesus and in the Eucharist:

You heard me, only Friend whom I love.

To ravish my heart, you became man.

You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!...

And you still live for me on the Altar.

Deprived of palpable consolation, she can rest on the Sacred Heart:

If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face

Or hear your sweet voice,

O my God, I can live by your grace,

I can rest on your Sacred Heart!

The Heart is not a distant symbol to her: it is all her joy.

O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,

You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.

You who knew how to charm my tender youth,

Stay near me till the last night.

She does not propitiate the Heart, but always locates herself inside it:

It’s in your ever-infinite goodness

That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!

The Heart of Jesus does not demand atonement; it simply burns with love.  Faced with her human weakness and the justice of the law, Thérèse takes refuge in that heart, which not only protects her but also is itself her virtue (reminiscent of her offering of herself:  “I beg You, O my God, to be Yourself my Sanctity!”[9]):

Ah! I know well all our righteousness

Is worthless in your sight.

To give value to my sacrifices,

I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.

I do not fear, my virtue is You!...

You did not find your angels without blemish.

In the midst of lightning you gave your law!...

I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.

Thérèse’s confidence reaches its height in her daring prayer choosing the Heart of God as her purgatory and asking to go straight to the Heaven of that Heart:

To be able to gaze on your glory,

I know we have to pass through fire.

So I, for my purgatory,

Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!

On leaving this life, my exiled soul

Would like to make an act of pure love,

And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,

Enter straightaway into your Heart.

 In another poem she wrote in October 1895, she audaciously prays to love Jesus with His own heart:

Remember that on earth I want

To console you for the forgetfulness of sinners.

My only Love, grant my prayer.

Ah! give me a thousand hearts to love you.

But that is still too little, Jesus, Beauty Supreme.

Give me your divine Heart Itself to love you.[10]

Several months later she again appropriates the Heart of her Spouse “to love more tenderly.”  She writes to her Visitandine sister Léonie:

Dear Sister, I love you a thousand times more tenderly than ordinary sisters love each other, for I can love you with the Heart of our celestial Spouse.[11]

Far from demanding reparation, the Heart of Jesus (“more than maternal”) repairs us.  In 1896 Thérèse writes that this heart “restores innocence:” 

O you who knew how to create the mother’s heart,

I find in you the tenderest of Fathers!

My only Love, Jesus, Eternal Word,

For me your heart is more than maternal.

***

Your heart that preserves and restores innocence

Won’t betray my trust![12]

Thérèse writes often of “resting” or “sleeping” on the heart of Jesus

And if sometimes Jesus sleeps,

You will rest beside Him.

His Divine Heart that always keeps vigil

Will serve as your sweet support.[13]


The little child . . . sleeps always on the Heart of the Great General. Close to this Heart, we learn courage, and especially confidence.[14]

Three months before her death, writing to Maurice Bellière, the seminarian who was her spiritual brother, Thérèse gives her most powerful witness to her experience of the Heart of Jesus:

When I see Magdalene walking up before the many guests, washing with her tears the feet of her adored Master, whom she is touching for the first time, I feel that her heart has understood the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus, and, sinner though she is, this Heart of love was not only disposed to pardon her but to lavish on her the blessings of His divine intimacy, to lift her to the highest summits of contemplation.

Ah! dear little Brother, ever since I have been given the grace to understand also the love of the Heart of Jesus, I admit that it has expelled all fear from my heart.  The remembrance of my faults humbles me, draws me never to depend on my strength which is only weakness, but this remembrance speaks to me of mercy and love still more.[15]

On July 17, 1897 she ends her last letter to Léonie, promising to be her sister’s messenger to the Sacred Heart:

You want me to pray in heaven to the Sacred Heart for you.  Be sure that I shall not forget to deliver your messages to Him and to ask all that will be necessary for you to become a great saint.[16]

The next day Thérèse writes once more to Maurice Bellière about the heart of Jesus.  For more than a century her message has echoed in the heart of humanity, as it echoes today:

Ah! how I would like to make you understand the tenderness of the Heart of Jesus, what He expects from you![17]

 

______________________________

[1] Excerpt from LT 67, letter from Thérèse to her aunt, Mme. Guerin, November 18, 1888.  Letters of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Volume I, 1877-1890.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p 478.  The next three notes are drawn from that work.

 [2] “Crowned with thorns, with a big cross set up in the center,” as Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart wrote to Celine on October 13, quoting P. Pichon.

 [3] See Canticle of Canticles 2:16.

 [4] Excerpt from LT 122, letter from Thérèse to Cèline, October 14, 1890.  The second centenary of Blessed Margaret Mary’s death, October 17, 1890, attracted crowds to Paray-le-Monial.  Letters of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Volume II, 1890-1897. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988, pp. 709-710.

 [5] Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D., 3rd edition.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996, pp.180-181.

 [6] This prayer is often called the “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” but Thérèse never called it that. 

 [7] PN 23, Introductory notes to “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” June or October 1895, in The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, tr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996, p. 117.

[8] PN 23, “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” June or October 1895, in The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, ibid., pp. 117-120.

 [9] Story of a Soul, op. cit., p. 276.

 [10] PN 24, “Jesus, My Beloved, Remember!” October 21, 1895. The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, ibid., p. 130.

[11] LT 186, from Thérèse to Léonie, April 11, 1896.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 951.

[12] PN 36, “Jesus Alone,” August 15, 1896. The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, op. cit., p. 165.

 [13] PN 13, “The Queen of Heaven to her Beloved Child Marie of the Holy Face,” December 25, 1894.  The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, op. cit., p. 78.

 [14] LT 200, from Thérèse to Sister Marie of St. Joseph, end of October 1896? Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1013.

[15] LT 247, from Thérèse to abbé Bellière, June 21, 1897.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1133.

[16] LT 257, from Thérèse to Léonie, July 17, 1897.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1149.

[17] LT 258, from Thérèse to abbé Bellière, July 18, 1897.  Letters,  Volume II, op. cit., p. 1152.

St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Joan of Arc - for the feast of St. Joan of Arc, May 30, 2016

Today, May 30, we observe the feast of St. Joan of Arc.  Because Joan was not beatified until 1909 or canonized until 1920, her liturgical feast was not celebrated during the lifetime of St. Therese of Lisieux.  Neverthess, Joan of Arc had a profound influence on Therese throughout her life, and Therese, in her poems and plays, presented Joan as one who both inspired and followed the way Therese was discovering of littleness, confidence, and love. 

By furnishing some background, guiding you to the texts, and presenting a couple of themes, this modest article highlights certain aspects of Therese’s relationship with Joan and empowers you to reflect on the texts and interpret them in the light of your experience.

St. Joan of Arc in Therese's childhood

 

When Therese was a little girl, her study of Joan’s adventures brought her a sudden illumination of her own vocation. At age 22, in 1895, she recounts:

When reading the accounts of the patriotic deeds of French heroines, especially the Venerable JOAN OF ARC, I had a great desire to imitate them; and it seemed I felt within me the same burning zeal with which they were animated, the same heavenly inspiration. Then I received a grace which I have always looked upon as one of the greatest in my life because at that age I wasn’t receiving the lights I’m now receiving when I am flooded with them. I considered that I was born for glory and when I searched out the means of attaining it, God inspired in me the sentiments I have just described. He made me understand my own glory would not be evident to the eyes of mortals, that it would consist in becoming a great saint!

Story of a Soul, The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition.  Tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, 1996.  You may see this quotation in context at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

1894, "Joan of Arc Year" in France

 

Although Joan would be canonized five years and one day before Therese (on May 16, 1920), during the 1890s she was very much a “current event,” someone to whose canonization the Martin family could contribute (as we can now to that of Therese’s sister Leonie, Sister Francoise-Therese of the Visitation at Caen).  1894 was “Joan of Arc” year in France.  On January 27, 1894, Pope Leo XIII, at whose feet Therese had knelt almost six years before, declared Joan “Venerable” (a title given to candidates for sainthood who are considered to have practiced “heroic virtue.”  We are now praying that the study of the life and writings of Leonie Martin may lead to her being named Venerable). 

Therese's First Play About Joan of Arc: "The Mission of Joan of Arc"

 

Six days earlier, Therese had produced her first play for the Carmelite recreations, “The mission of Joan of Arc, or The Shepherdess of Domremy listening to her voices.”  She wrote it for the feast on January 21, 1894 of her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, the prioress, and herself played the role of Joan. 

Note: You may read this and Therese’s second play about Joan in The Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux: “Pious Recreations,” with a general introduction by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D., translated by Susan Conroy and David Dwyer.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Carmelite Friars, 2008. Bishop Gaucher’s general introduction and his short introduction to each play place them in the context of Therese’s life and spiritual development.  Further, this volume is a splendid way to become familiar with Therese’s least-known writings.  You may also read the text of the play (but not the introductions and notes) at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Although Therese will discover her “way of confidence and love” only toward the end of 1894, it’s clearly foreshadowed in this play. 

“I am only his little spouse,

and I will try to return to Him love for love.” 

“I, too, want to remain always very little and very humble,

so that I will be like Jesus and He will dwell in me.” 

As the play ends, Joan leaves to seek the Dauphin and take up arms, but Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret foresee her glorification:  “Come, save France a second time!”

May 8, 1894: A National Holiday for Joan of Arc in France

 

Very soon, events surrounding Joan began to accelerate in France.  From The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, tr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, 1996, pp. 46-47, we learn that Therese’s uncle, Isidore Guerin, wrote several articles about Joan for Le Normand.  Henri Wallon, whose biography of Joan Therese had consulted, presided over a commission that introduced into the National Assembly a bill proposing that May 8 be celebrated as a “national holiday” each year in honor of Joan of Arc.  Tension between the Church and the state continued to run high, and Uncle Isidore saw this holiday as a scheme by the freemasons to reclaim the saintly Joan for their cause and to secularize her. 

Lisieux shared especially in the enthusiasm for Joan, for, in a way, the town represented Joan’s “blood money.”  Pierre Cauchon, the pro-British bishop who had presided at the trial of Joan of Arc, was rewarded by being named bishop of Lisieux.  On May 8, 1894, a precious flag of “the glorious Liberatrix” was placed in the chapel Cauchon had built in St. Pierre’s Cathedral at Lisieux, the very chapel where Therese, as a laywoman, had participated in the weekday Mass.  Celine Martin and Marie Guerin joined a committee of young women recruited by the pastor of St. Pierre’s parish to prepare for the celebration.  They sewed twelve big banners covered with the fleur de lis.  On May 8 the church was brilliantly lighted, and five thousand people jammed inside. 

Therese's First Poem for Joan of Arc, "Canticle to Obtain the Canonization of Joan of Arc"

 

On that same day, dedicating it to her sister Celine, Therese wrote her “Canticle to Obtain the Canonization of Joan of Arc.” (It's online at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.  You may read the poem with complete notes at The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux).  Therese sees Joan’s path as her own: 

“A heart of fire, a warrior’s soul:

You gave them to the timid virgin.” 

She, who was especially united to the virgin-martyrs, shows the kinship between Joan and the Carmelites:

Sweet Martyr, our monasteries are yours. 

You know well that virgins are your sisters,

And like you the object of their prayers

 Is to see God reign in every heart.

She echoes the sentiment of her first play:

Come down to us, come convert France.

Come save her a second time.

Therese's Second Play about Joan of Arc, "Joan of Arc Accomplishing Her Mission"

 

Therese then began to prepare her second play about Joan, a longer and more ambitious work:  “Joan of Arc Accomplishing Her Mission, or: The Victories, the Captivity, the Martyrdom, and the Heavenly Triumphs of the Venerable Joan of France,” which would be presented for the prioress’s feast day on January 21, 1895.  This longer play was greeted with general enthusiasm.  To interpret the meaning of the play for Therese (which is beyond the scope of this article), I direct you to Bishop Gaucher’s introduction to that play in The Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux: “Pious Recreations,” cited in full above. 

Photographs of Therese in Her Costume as Joan of Arc

 

Sometime between January 21, 1897 and March 25, 1897, Therese put on her costume again (a brown wig worn over her  toque, and a gold-paper costume worn over part of her Carmelite habit) and was photographed five times as Joan of Arc.  Although I have no permission to display these photos on this site, you need only click to see them (photos 11-15 in the catalog of the 47 photos of Therese) here courtesy of the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Therese and Joan of Arc in 1897

 

Joan was always at Therese’s side, but in the spring and summer of 1897, as  Therese faced her own death, Joan became even more real to her.  On April 27, 1897, she wrote to Maurice Belliere, the seminarian who was her “spiritual brother”:

When I was beginning to learn the history of France, the account of Joan of Arc's exploits delighted me; I felt in my heart the desire and the courage to imitate her. It seemed the Lord destined me, too, for great things. I was not mistaken, but instead of voices from heaven inviting me to combat, I heard in the depths of my soul a gentler and stronger voice, that of the Spouse of Virgins, who was calling me to other exploits, to more glorious conquests, and into Carmel's solitude. I understood my mission was not to have a mortal king crowned but to make the King of heaven loved, to submit to Him the kingdom of hearts.

Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Carmelite Friars, 1988, p. 1085).

Betrayal: Leo Taxil

 

One souvenir of Therese’s play inside the cloister became known in Paris.  Therese had learned of the existence of “Diana Vaughan,” a character who had supposedly forsaken a Satanist cult and converted to Catholicism.  Therese sent to "Diana" a copy of a retouched version of photo 14, of herself as Joan and Celine as Saint Catherine.  But "Diana" was a hoax.  She did not exist.  Leo Taxil, a con man, had made her up to ridicule the Church.  On April 19, 1897, “Diana Vaughan” was to appear at a big press conference in Paris to satisfy critics who questioned her existence.  Instead, they saw only Taxil, who projected the photo of Therese and Celine as Saints Joan and Catherine (courtesy of the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux).  Taxil told the press that the photo had been taken from a play about Joan of Arc that had been enacted in a convent.  One newspaper wrote “What convent? Probably Taxil’s house!” 

Therese's Last Poem about Joan of Arc, "To Joan of Arc"

 

How acutely Therese felt this betrayal is shown in her last poem about Joan, “To Joan of Arc,” written a short time later, in May 1897.  Like her Beloved openly mocked by unbelievers, plunged into a trial against faith that brought her into solidarity with atheists, and facing her own death, she wrote to Joan:

At the bottom of a black dungeon, laden with heavy chains,

The cruel foreigner filled you with grief.

Not one of your friends took part in your pain.

Not one came forward to wipe your tears.

 

Joan, in your dark prison you seem to me

More radiant, more beautiful than at your king's coronation.

This heavenly reflection of eternal glory,

Who then brought it upon you? It was betrayal.

Therese and Joan after the Death of Therese

 

Therese spoke often of Joan during her own months in the infirmary.  We may note that her deep sense of kinship with Joan and with Joan’s mission was recognized by the Church.  Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.  On the day after Therese’s canonization in 1925 Pope Pius XI, speaking to the French pilgrims, called Therese “a new Joan of Arc.”  And on May 3, 1944, as France was overrun by German soldiers, Pope Pius XII named Therese secondary patron of France, the equal of Joan of Arc.  (The principal patron of France is the Blessed Virgin).  May these two sister-saints intercede not only for France but for the whole world and inspire us to carry out our mission with the same courage they showed. 

Note: I recommend the article “Thérèse of Lisieux and Jeanne d'Arc: History, Memory, and Interiority in the Experience of Vocation” by Mary Frohlich, which appeared in Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 20016, pp. 173-194.  Only the abstract is available online to the public, but you may access the full article online if you are affiliated with an institution that subscribes to Project MUSE.  If not, you may purchase the issue online.

Saint Therese of Lisieux and the Blessed Sacrament: for the feast of Corpus Christi, May 29, 2016

In 1887, St. Therese visited the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre in Paris. Later she sent her gold bracelet to be melted down to form part of this monstrance

St. Therese of Lisieux shared with her whole family a passionate love for Jesus in the Eucharist. 

"I loved especially the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.  What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God!  Before allowing them to fall to the ground, I threw them as high as I could, and I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred monstrance." 

(Read more about Therese's childhood experience of the great feasts of the Church at the Web site if the archives of the Carmel of Lisieux).

  • In 1887, before leaving on the pilgrimage to Rome, 14-year-old Therese spent a few days in Paris with her father, St. Louis Martin, and her sister Celine.  Before departing from Paris, all the pilgrims were consecrated to the Sacred Heart in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre.  Later Therese sent her gold bracelet to be melted down to form part of the monstrance pictured above, which was used for the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist.  How happy she must have been to think that the substance of the little bracelet that once touched her wrist was so near her Eucharistic Lord.  I thank the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre for permitting "Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway" to display this photograph, which was taken in 2012 when, to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Therese's visit in 1887, her reliquary was venerated at Montmartre for several days.
  • Although Therese's understanding, experience, and theology of the Eucharist continued to grow and develop throughout her short life, it was already well formed when she was only sixteen.  In May 1889, during her novitiate, she received a letter from her nineteen-year-old cousin, Marie Guerin (later Sister Marie of the Eucharist).  In Paris to visit the great 1889 Exposition, Marie, a young girl from the provinces, was troubled by her reaction to the nude statues in the exposition, and wrote to Therese suggesting that she could not receive Communion in that condition.  On May 30, 1889, the 16-year-old novice answered with the prophetic wisdom given by the Holy Spirit:
Oh, my darling, think, then, that Jesus is there in the Taber­nacle expressly for you, for you alone-, He is burning with the de­sire to enter your heart ... so don't listen to the devil, mock him, and go without any fear to receive Jesus in peace and love!. . . ,

 
Your heart is made to love Jesus, to love Him passionately; pray so that the beautiful years of your life may not pass by in chimer­ical fears.

We have only the short moments of our life to love Jesus, and the devil knows this well, and so he tries to consume our life in useless works ....

Dear little sister, receive Communion often, very often. . . . That is the only remedy if you want to be healed.

(LT 92, to Marie Guerin, May 30, 1889), from The Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume I.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, 1982, pp. 568-569.  I repeat: if you know Therese only through her Story of a Soul, great graces await you in her letters).

In 1910 Msgr. de Teil, the vice-postulator for Therese's cause, showed this letter to Pope St. Pius X, the Pope who gave us frequent communion, and said to him "This little sister has made a commentary in advance on Your Holiness' decree on frequent communion."  "Est opportunissimum!  Est magnum gaudium por me!" ["This is most opportune!  This is a great joy to me"], cried the Pope.  He ended "We must hurry this cause."  Ibid., p. 569.  At the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, read the full text of Therese's letter to Marie Guerin about the Eucharist.

May our love for the Eucharist continue to grow and deepen, and may the transformation it brings us express itself not only in adoration and in frequently joining with the Christian community to celebrate the Eucharist but also in satisfying, with Jesus, all the hungers of the human family. 

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