Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
of the Holy Face
Day Two of the Nine Days of Prayer and Reflection with St. Therese of Lisieux to Prepare for the Jubilee of Mercy - December 1, 2015
Day Two – “Merciful Like the Father”
Our Lady of Hope, by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS
In Misericordae Vultus, Pope Francis writes:
"It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father."
“To touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father”—this is the mission of Therese. She wrote “Jesus deigned to show me the only road that leads to this divine Furnace, and this road is the abandonment of the little child who sleepswithout fear in its Father’s arms.”
Pope Francis: “The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a “visceral” love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.”
Therese: Sister Marie of the Trinity, speaking of an interaction with Therese, her novice mistress: “One day I hurt her feelings when I would not admit the faults she reproached me with. Just then the bell rang for evening prayer. On the way I began to be sorry for the way I had behaved, and I whispered to her “I was very naughty just now.” She looked at me lovingly, her eyes filled with tears.
“If you only knew what is going on within me! No, I have never experienced so vividly with what love Jesus receives us when we ask him to forgive us after we have offended him. Hardly had you begun to express your repentance to me than I felt for you more love than before. If such is the case with me, poor little creature that I am, what must God experience when the sinner returns to him?”
Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, by Pierre Descouvement. Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul, 1997, pp. 75-76.
Pope Francis: “The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. . . . in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”
Within the desert of Carmel, Therese herself was an oasis of mercy to the others. She extended herself to the sisters who were older, ill, cranky, neglected, or isolated in any way, and she did so at considerable personal cost.
- At recreation, the two prized times a day when the nuns were permitted to talk, she went to sit by those who were neglected.
- Sister Marie of St. Joseph, who had a terrible temper (she had to leave the Carmel after the death of Therese), had been working alone in the linen room; the nuns were so afraid of her that the prioress had not dared assign her a helper. Therese asked to be assigned to aid her and rescued her from the isolation which had been her lot. When Therese’s sister Marie confided how much trouble she herself had with Sister Marie of St. Joseph, Therese answered “Ah! if you only knew how necessary it is to forgive her, how much she is to be pitied! It is not her fault if she is so poorly gifted; she is like an old clock that has to be rewound every quarter of an hour. Yes, it is as bad as that. Well, wouldn’t you have pity on it? Oh, how necessary it is to practice charity toward one’s neighbour!”
- When her sister Pauline spoke to her of a nun who treated Therese badly, Therese replied “I assure you that I have the greatest compassion for Sister X. If you knew her as well as I do, you would see that she is not responsible for all the things that seem so awful to us. I remind myself that, if I had an infirmity such as hers, and so defective a temperament, I wouldn’t do any better than she does, and then I would despair; she suffers terribly from her own shortcomings.”
- When one of the novices said she couldn’t stand how a fussy elderly sister under whose supervision Therese worked was treating her, Therese exclaimed “You are complaining after a few words with her; what would you do if you had to listen to her all day long, as I do? Now, you can do what I do. It’s really easy. All you have to do is mellow your soul with charitable thoughts; you then feel such peace that you no longer get irritated.”
St. Therese of Lisieux by those who knew her, tr. Christopher O’Mahony, O.C.D. Dublin: Veritas Press, 1973.
Pope Francis: We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord’s words: Merciful like the Father. The Evangelist reminds us of the teaching of Jesus who says, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). It is a programme of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace.
- One day one of Therese’s blood sisters asked her “How come you always smile so sweetly when Sister X speaks to you? It can’t be because ofany attraction because she is always making you suffer.” “That is precisely why I love her and why I show her so much affection,” Therese answered. “How could I prove my love for Jesus if I behaved otherwise toward those who hurt me?”
Pope Francis: Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him.
How can we be merciful like the Father?
Time of Personal Prayer
Pray as the Holy Spirit leads you. Consider reading over paragraphs 12-14 of "Misericordiae Vultus” and pausing wherever your heart feels moved.
The Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee
Nine days of prayer and reflection with St. Therese of Lisieux to prepare for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy - November 30-December 8, 2015. Day One: November 30, 2015
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which was announced by Pope Francis on March 13, 2015, begins on December 8, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. I invite you to make this “novena”, beginning on Monday, November 30 and ending on Tuesday, December 8, to reflect on the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”) and on related themes in the lived experience of St. Therese, the great missionary of God's mercy.
After reading the reflection below, please pray as the Holy Spirit leads you, and close your prayer with the “Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee.” Of course, you may include any personal intentions you like in the prayer. Most of all, I invite you to join in the intention expressed by the Pope:
“Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.”
One could not prepare better for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy than to read “Misericordiae Vultus” as a whole, and I encourage you to do so. For this first day, read especially the first four numbered paragraphs.
Reflection on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and St. Therese
The face of the Father's mercy
Pope Francis opens: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” He urges us “constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.” St. Therese spent her whole life contemplating that mystery. Since the first publication of her memoir, Story of a Soul, in 1898, has been the messenger of mercy to the whole world. She knew very well that her charism was to experience and proclaim mercy. At 23 she wrote
“ I understand . . . that all souls cannot be the same, that it is necessary there be different types in order to honor each of God’s perfections in a particular way. To me He has granted His infinite Mercy, and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections! All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love . . . “
[Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Carmelites, 1975].
Indeed, Therese offered herself to Merciful Love. But she saw the relationship between love and mercy as so intimate that she did not always need to use the word “Merciful” to describe “Love.”
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8: a day of mercies for the Martin family
Pope Francis goes on to say that the jubilee year will open on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. A note about the significance of this date to the Martin family. On December 5, 1875, Zelie, 43, wrote to her daughter Pauline, 15:
So Wednesday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and it’s a great feast day for me! On that day, the Blessed Mother granted me many notable graces. Ask your aunt if she remembers December 8, 1851. (On that date, Zelie, a young woman uncertain about how to earn her dowry, heard an interior voice: “See to the manufacturing of Alençon lace,” in which business she became very successful). As for me, I haven’t forgotten it.
Nor have I forgotten December 8, 1860, the day I asked our Heavenly Mother to give me a little Pauline. But I can’t think of it without laughing because I was exactly like a child asking her mother for a doll (Zelie’s mother never let her have a doll), and I went about it the same way. I wanted to have a Pauline like the one I have, and I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s because I was afraid the Blessed Mother wouldn’t quite understand what I wanted. First and foremost that she have a beautiful little soul, capable of becoming a saint, but I also wanted her to be very pretty. As for that, she’s hardly pretty, but I find her beautiful, very beautiful, and she’s as I wanted her to be!
Again, this year, I’ll go to find the Blessed Mother at daybreak, and I want to be the first to arrive. (Each year, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Zelie went on pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Seez). I’m going to light my candle to her as usual, but I won’t ask her for any more little daughters. I’m only going to ask her that those she’s given me all become saints and that I may follow them closely, but they must be much better than I am.
A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, 1863-1885, ed. Dr. Frances Renda. Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul, 2011.
May the Mother of Mercies prepare us to receive the grace of the Jubilee.
The Holy Door
In honor of the Jubilee of Mercy, on December 8, 2015 Pope Francis will open the Holy Door, which has remained closed since the last ordinary Holy Year in 2000. He writes: “On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.” Has Therese herself not been such a door of mercy? For the nuns who knew her well, she was a door to the experience of God’s mercy in their everyday lives. Since the publication of Story of a Soul in 1898, she has been a door of Mercy through which countless pilgrims have entered into an experience of God’s "consuming and transforming love." St. Therese of Lisieux is the threshold of Mercy, a powerful way to Jesus Christ. How many people, entering into her experience of God's Merciful Love, have crossed that threshold to receive the graces of baptism, healing, conversion, vocation! She will also guide you across the threshold. Call on her confidently during this year of grace.
The Fiftieth Anniversary of Vatican II
Pope Francis chose December 8, 2015 because it is the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. “The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. . . .With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history, a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning.” Therese, too, introduced a new era for the Church, asking God "to cast Your divine glance upon a great number of little souls." She liberated sanctity and made it accessible to everyone.
- for the significance of Therese to the Second Vatican Council, please see the essay by William Thompson, "Therese of Lisieux: A Challenge for Doctrine and Theology, Forerunner of Vatican III" in Experiencing St. Therese Today, ed. John Sulllivan, OCD (Wellesley, Mass.; Christus Publishing, 2012, p. 206.
- For the significance of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin for Vatican II, please see "What if Louis and Zelie Martin had known about Vatican II?" - a conference delivered by Mgr Jacques Habert, bishop of Seez, on July 14, 2012.
Time of Personal Prayer
Pray as the Holy Spirit leads you. Consider reading over the first four numbered paragraphs of "Misericordiae Vultus” and pausing wherever your heart feels moved.
The Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee
For St. Therese every day was a day of profound thanksgiving. One day she told her sister Celine:
It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God's grace, for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than He hastens to send us ten additional favors in return. Then, when we show our gratitude for these new gifts, He multiplies His benedictions to such a degree that there seems to be a constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way.
This has been my own personal experience; try it out for yourself and see. For all that Our Lord is constantly giving me, my gratitude is boundless, and I try to prove it to Him in a thousand different ways."
(My Sister Saint Therese, by Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin). Reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1997, p. 97).
How can we live in this spirit of gratitude to God and show it?
"Family reliquary" of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin and St. Therese to be venerated in the Archdiocese of Newark October 17-24, 2015
As part of the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life and of the canonization of Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin on October 18, 2015, the reliquary of the Martin family, which was commissioned by the Magnificat Foundation and is usually venerated at the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Philadelphia, will be on pilgrimage to the Archdiocese of Newark from October 17, 2015 through and including October 24, 2015. See the details of the presence of the reliquary of the Martin family in the Archdiocese of Newark.
Father Martin Nyland
Please join me and the friends of St. Therese in praying a novena to invoke her intercession for the healing of Father Martin Nyland, ordained a priest for the diocese of Peterborough in Ontario, Canada on August 15, 1992. Father Nyland is suffering from several diseases that affect the brain and asked me to appeal for your prayers. He made a pilgrimage to Lisieux some years ago and is asking God, through the intercession of St. Therese, for the miracle of healing.
I usually can't post prayer requests, since they would flood the site, but I am making an exception this once. Please begin the novena on Thursday, August 6, the feast of the Transfiguration, the date on which Therese used especially to venerate the Holy Face of Jesus and on which she wrote her Act of Consecration to the Holy Face. Please complete the novena on Friday, August 14, the vigil of the feast of the Assumption. Please pray as the Holy Spirit leads you, and, so that we may all unite in at least a few words, close your prayer with the words Mary and Martha of Bethany sent to Jesus when Lazarus was ill: "Lord, the one you love is sick."
in union of prayer,