Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
of the Holy Face
The shrine (the tomb) of St. Therese in the little side chapel at the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux. It was unveiled on the day of her beatification, April 29, 1923. (Photo courtesy of Dee Cursi)
Ninety-three years ago, on April 29, 1923, Venerable Therese of the Child Jesus was beatified at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. At the same hour a special Mass was offered in the chapel of the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. The next day Marie of the Sacred Heart, Therese's oldest sister, wrote to their sister Leonie, describing vividly the ceremonies at Carmel and quoting from a telegram sent to the Carmelites from Rome to tell them about the beatification. Read Marie's letter.
Vatican announces approval of the healing of Marie-Paul Stevens, a Belgian woman, as the miracle for the canonization of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: March 4, 2016
Photo Credit: Carmel of Dijon
The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis has authorized the canonization of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a young Carmelite who died at the Carmel of Dijon, France in 1906 at the age of twenty-six. On Thursday afternoon, March 3, 2016, the Pope received Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree recognizing as a miracle the cure of Ms. Marie-Paul Stevens.
Story of the Miracle
Marie-Paul was teaching religion at the Institute of the Marist Brothers in Malmedy, in Belgium, in May 1997, when she began to have trouble speaking and other symptoms. Some weeks later, after undergoing medical tests on a friend's advice, Marie-Paul discovered that she had Sjogren's disease. As her illness progressed, the government asked her to retire early. Many people were praying the novena to Blessed Elizabeth to ask for Marie-Paul's healing. Although the patient received chemotherapy and other treatment, her health deteriorated. As Marie-Paul moved closer to death, she requested to go on pilgrimage to the Carmel of Flavignerot to thank Elizabeth for giving her strength during her illness. This was the community of Blessed Elizabeth; the nuns moved in 1979 from Dijon to nearby Flavignerot. On April 2, 2002 she prayed in the chapel of the Carmel and gave thanks to Elizabeth. Afterward she rested by sitting on one of the rocks at the edge of the monastery's parking lot. The two friends who had accompanied her were astounded when, all at once, she stood up, lifted her hands to heaven, and cried out in amazement and happiness "I am no longer sick!" From that day on she has been well.
History of the Inquiry into the Miracle
The diocesan process to examine this miracle with a view to canonizing Elizabeth was formally opened on July 11th, 2011 in the chapel of the Archbishop of Dijon, Most Rev. Roland Minnerah. The vice-postulator of Elizabeth's cause, Fr. Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D. (also the vice-postulator for Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin and the postulator for the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux), wrote a letter requesting the opening of the process, and the members of the tribunal were sworn in. Three Carmelite nuns of Flavignerot were interviewed about the miracle.
The members of the tribunal traveled to Belgium to conduct several sessions of inquiry. They interviewed more than 40 witnesses, including several physicians. Everyone was amazed at Marie-Paul's healing and moved by Elizabeth's life and writings. The successful closing of the process was celebrated at Vespers (evening prayer) in the chapel of the Carmel of Flavignerot (where Marie-Paul had prayed to Elizabeth) on August 25, 2012. Marie-Paul Stevens herself was present at the solemn closing of the process together with several friends; members of the Chevignard family, descendants of Elizabeth's sister Marguerite, known as "Guite;" and friends of the Flavignerot Carmel.
Father Sangalli was then commissioned to present the voluminous dossier of the tribunal's work to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, which again investigated the healing and recommended that it be recognized as a miracle.
About Elizabeth of the Trinity
Elizabeth Catez was born in 1880. She entered the Dijon Carmel in 1901 and died there in 1906 at the age of twenty-six. She penetrated the depths of the contemplative life had a profound experience of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in her soul. Her spiritual influence has been growing deeper and wider since her death.
Elizabeth of the Trinity and Therese of Lisieux
Elizabeth is one of the earliest and most fervent disciples of Therese. With her novice mistress, Mother Germaine of Jesus, she was deeply influenced by an early copy of Therese's Story of a Soul. Her writings are full of quotations and echoes of Therese, easily recognized by those who know Therese.
The Jesuit theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote a book about Therese and Elizabeth: Two Sisters in the Spirit, showing how each one complements the contemplative life of the other.
The critical edition of Elizabeth's writings was edited in three volumes by the distinguished Belgian Carmelite scholar, Fr. Conrad De Meester, who has presented and interpreted Therese so brilliantly. Two of the volumes, "Vol. I: General Introduction and Major Spiritual Writings" (also called "I Have Found God") and Letters from Carmel, have been published in English.
I have spent much time meditating on and praying over Elizabeth's letters from Carmel and have found them the best way to get to know her and to understand her profound union with Therese and with God. I recommend them.
If you prefer to read a narrative of her life, consider He Is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity by Jennifer Moorcroft.
Pope St. John Paul II and Elizabeth of the Trinity
Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 25, 1984. In his homily he said of her:
This contemplative, far from being isolated, was able to communicate to her sisters and to those near her the richness of her mystical experience. Her message is spreading today with a prophetic force. We invoke her: the disciple of Teresa of Jesus and of John of the Cross, she inspires and sustains the whole family of Carmel; she helps many men and women, in the lay life and in the consecrated life, to receive and to share the 'waves of infinite charity' she received 'at the fountain of life.'
My translation, from the Vatican Web site.
Canonization of Elizabeth of the Trinity
The date of her canonization, which will no doubt take place later this year, is expected to be announced on March 15, 2016.
Citing a story in the Catholic Herald, I posted that the date of the canonization of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was expected to be announced on March 15, 2016. Now, however, the Vatican has announced that on March 15 it will release the dates of the canonization ceremonies for five blesseds, including Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was not among the five, so it appears that we will need to wait a little longer to know the date of her ceremony. https://zenit.org/articles/pope-likely-to-declare-date-of-mother-teresas-canonization-tuesday/
Read Dr. Anthony Lilles telling the Catholic News Agency in some detail just how Elizabeth of the Trinity was influenced by Therese's Story of a Soul, her Offering to Merciful Love, and her poem Vivre d'Amour.
"The Mother of Mercies - Day Nine of Nine Days of Prayer and Reflection with St. Therese for the Jubilee of Mercy"
In this ninth and last day of the novena, although I include a few lines from Therese, it is hardly necessary to quote her directly because the Holy Father's words express so well what she knew in her heart and experienced in her life. I recommend that you pray over paragraphs 23, 24, and 25 of Misericordiae Vultus to prepare to begin the Jubilee of Mercy.
The Mother of Mercies
Toward the end of Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis writes:
My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy.
(“The Mother of Mercy” evokes Zelie Martin’s words to Pauline when the family was praying for Zelie’s cure from breast cancer: “Pray trustingly to the Mother of mercies. She will come to our aid with the goodness and sweetness of the most tender of mothers.”).
May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love.
Compare this with the bold words of Therese:
You love us, Mary, as Jesus loves us . . . .
The Savior knew your immense tenderness.
He knew the secrets of your maternal heart.
Pope Francis continues:
Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.
At the foot of the Cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him show us the point to which the mercy of God can reach. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception.
Compare these last lines with Therese:
Refuge of sinners, He leaves us to you
When He leaves the Cross to wait for us in Heaven.
The Pope continues:
Let us address her in the words of the Salve Regina, a prayer ever ancient and ever new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus.
Make this prayer ("Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy" by listening to the chant below:
Time of Prayer
Choose any of the passages above or from paragraphs 23, 24, or 25 of Misericordiae Vultus and pray over them.
Let's conclude the novena for the Jubilee of Mercy with the Pope's words:
I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. . . . . From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.
Just before offering the Prayer of Pope Francis below, pray with him for the Church in these last words from Misericordiae Vultus:
In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6)..
The Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee
Thank you for making these nine days of prayer. May God bless you through them.
The Jubilee Indulgence and the Communion of Saints - Day Eight of the Nine Days of Prayer and Reflection with St. Therese for the Year of Mercy - December 7, 2015
About the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis is not in jest. By many concrete actions he is showing his commitment to all people experiencing mercy. He is broadly expanding the indulgences traditionally available to Catholics, extending them to those in prison and to anyone who performs one of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy. The indulgence will continue to be granted to able-bodied Catholics who fulfill certain conditions and to the sick, and the faithful can obtain indulgences for the dead. The Pope is also granting to all priests around the world authority to absolve women who confess to having received an abortion and is permitting priests of the Society of St. Pius X, which is separated from the Catholic Church, to grant absolution to those who confess to them. Read a story about the announcement, and see details about the various ways to fulfill the conditions for the Jubilee indulgence.
“Indulgences” are one of the most misunderstood practices of the Catholic Church. Some people have commented that the Church’s granting of indulgences takes away from the complete expiation of our sins by Jesus Christ; I understand that indulgences are a dispensing in space and time of this treasure to individual souls through the ministry of the Church. When I was a child, partial indulgences were presented as “time off in Purgatory.” As an adult, going more deeply into the teaching of St. Therese on life after death, and discovering that God’s mercy cannot be restrained from pouring itself out on everyone, whether or not they have fulfilled the conditions for indulgences, I have not found it easy to relate personally to the concept of indulgences. Without fully understanding them, I was grateful to seek to fulfill the conditions for the plenary indulgence offered to those who attended the canonization of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, and I had the joy of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Basilica of St. Mary Major while the relics of St. Therese and of Sts. Louis and Zelie were exposed so that we might pray in their presence for the Synod on the Family. I still did not understand exactly what an indulgence might mean to the future of the individual penitent. Since my return, Pope Francis’s words in Misericordiae Vultus have helped me immeasurably to see that seeking a plenary indulgence does not conflict with Therese’s bold confidence in God’s mercy.
St. Therese’s Attitude toward Purgatory
St. Therese adhered to the teaching of the Church about purification after death and often prayed and obtained indulgences for “the souls in purgatory.” Indeed, she said “After my death, if you want to please me, offer up the Stations of the Cross for my intentions. If I don’t need them, I’ll be delighted to make a present of them to the souls in Purgatory.” But, deep as was her love for those already undergoing this painful purgation, in the matter of “going to purgatory,” Therese believed that, if we trust enough in God’s mercy, God will receive us at the moment we die. She was wholeheartedly concerned for the fate of others, but she kept no merits for herself, asking that they all be applied to others and that she might appear before God “with empty hands.” She believed that a single glance from God could purify her. She writes the seminarian Maurice Belliere: “I dare to hope ‘my exile will be short,’ but this is not because I am prepared. I feel that I shall never be prepared if the Lord does not see fit to transform me Himself. He can do so in one instant. After all the graces He has showered upon me, I still await this one from His infinite mercy.” in her “Offering of myself as a victim of Holocaust to God’s Merciful Love” she boldly says “If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your divine glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.” She ends “May my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.” To Fr. Roulland: “How would He purify in the flames of purgatory souls consumed in the fire of divine love?”
[Read more in the considerable excerpt from Hubert van Dijk’s article “The Teaching of St. Therese on Purgatory” presented in “For Heaven’s Sake,” the newsletter of the Holy Souls Sodality, Vol. 3, No. 12, September 2012. In the story of Sister Febronie, we see how ardently Therese believed that an individual soul can avoid purgatory by trusting in God's mercy].
Pope Francis’s reflection on the Jubilee Indulgence
In paragraph 22 of Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis reflects on the indulgences available in the Jubilee Year. He states bluntly: “God’s forgiveness knows no bounds," and adds:
In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. . . . yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even than this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.
Thus, the effect of the Jubilee indulgence is not to shorten some postponed punishment but to free us, while we are still living on earth, from the consequences of sin: from how our past sins affect our souls and personalities, and to strengthen us “to grow in love:” to fulfill the work of Christ the Redeemer. What a liberating reality!
The Pope goes on to say that the receiving of an indulgence is not a private matter:
The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting (cf. Rev 7:4). Their holiness comes to the aid of our weakness in a way that enables the Church, with her maternal prayers and her way of life, to fortify the weakness of some with the strength of others. Hence, to live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful “indulgence.” [my emphasis]
St. Therese and the Communion of Saints
As her writings show, Therese lived intensely in the presence of the Communion of Saints. When Maurice Belliere was worried that she would no longer love him after she died, she wrote lines that echo the Pope’s words about holiness coming to the aid of weakness:
I have to tell you, little brother, that we don’t understand Heaven in the same way. You think that, once I share in the justice and holiness of God, I won’t be able to excuse your faults as I did when I was on earth. Are you then forgetting that I shall also share in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe that the Blessed in Heaven have great compassion for our miseries. They remember that when they were weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults themselves and went through the same struggles, and their fraternal tenderness becomes still greater than it ever was on earth. It’s on account of this that they never stop watching over us and praying for us.
Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love, by Bishop Patrick Ahern. (Garden City, New York; Doubleday Image Books, 2001).
Time of Personal Prayer
Pray as the Holy Spirit leads you. Choose one of the paragraphs quoted from St. Therese or from Pope Francis and pray over it, pausing whenever your heart feels moved.
The Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee