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"Guy Gaucher, 'Therese's bishop,' her 'ardent, enlightened witness:'" a tribute by Fr. Olivier Ruffray, rector of the Shrine at Lisieux

Bishop Guy Gaucher after leaving the Mass of beatification
for Louis and Zelie Martin at Lisieux, October 19, 2008. 
Photo credit: Sanctuaire de Lisieux

     Bishop Guy Gaucher, affectionately known as “Thérèse’s bishop,”  has “entered into life,” in the words of his beloved sister Saint Thérèse, on the morning of July 3, 2014, in Carpentras, on the feast of the apostle Thomas.  What a great grace for a bishop, a successor of the apostles, to go to the Father on the feast-day of an apostle!

     Guy Gaucher was born March 5, 1930, in Tournan-en-Brie.  He was ordained a priest March 17, 1963, and made his religious profession in the Order of Discalced Carmelites on October 3, 1968.  At the insistent request of Pope John Paul II, he was consecrated Bishop of Meaux on October 19, 1986.  This date was to be important not only for the bishop he became but also for the whole Church, since it was on this date, October 19, that St. Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1997 and that Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse, were beatified in Lisieux in 2008.

     On May 7, 1987, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Guy Gaucher auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Bayeux-Lisieux.  Bishop Jean Badré, the bishop of the diocese at that time, welcomed him fraternally by entrusting to him “the mission of taking care of St. Thérèse.”

     A very cultured man and an authority on the novelist Bernanos, in his literary studies Bishop Guy Gaucher discovered St. Thérèse and became an expert on her life and spirituality. All acknowledged his expertise, and his word was an authority on that subject.

     Bishop Guy Gaucher leaves us a considerable body of literary work: books, articles, conferences, and symposia.  He was the ardent, enlightened witness of his older sister in the Order of Carmel.  He deciphers for us the spiritual experience of Thérèse, through the writings (no less considerable) “the greatest saint of modern times” has left us to introduce us to the merciful love of God and to love for the Church.  Monseigneur Guy Gaucher had the gift of explaining, in simple words most of us could understand, the spirituality of Thérèse, which had become his own, so that it might also become ours, faithful to the desire of the spiritual mistress of us all: “to love Jesus and to make Him loved.”

     An outstanding pianist, Bishop Gaucher could not resist the sight of a piano.  The keyboard attracted him and reminded him of how, when quite young, from time to time, he had been a pianist in a piano bar.  Listening to him play in the evening, one might revisit all the musical repertoire in our collective memory, with a little bit of off-beat flavor, from the talented fingers of the bishop--which he always remained.  Along with his sharp mind, these spontaneous moments in a relaxed atmosphere reflected as well the solid sense of humor he possessed.

     As a man in poor health, he lived the spiritual practice of abandonment into the arms of the Father, supported by his loyal friends and caregivers and the community of the Institute of Notre-Dame de Vie [Our Lady of Life] in Venasque (Vaucluse).

     Our brother Guy let himself be guided along his Paschal journey.  Grafted onto the cross of Jesus, he has passed from death to life and to the light of the Resurrection into which he has already entered.

     Monseigneur Guy Gaucher leaves the legacy of a rich, full, challenging, and inspiring life. Committed to Thérèse as perhaps no one else was, at the time of his departure from Lisieux, in June 2005 he wrote a letter entitled “Why I love you, O Thérèse,” paraphrasing the title of one of Thérèse’s poems, “Why I Love You, O Mary.” Bishop Gaucher wrote:

 “Thérèse said, ‘Who could have invented the Blessed Virgin?’ In the same way, one could ask: ‘Who could have invented Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face?’ At once  so near and so far away, so ordinary and so extraordinary, this little Norman woman, loved throughout the whole universe, whom we think we know and who always escapes us, because the last word of her being expresses something of the unfathomable mystery of the Love of God.”

      Being a man of great simplicity and of the freshness of the Gospel, Bishop Guy Gaucher wanted to be buried in Lisieux, near Saint Thérèse, whom he loved so well and to whose work he consecrated his life, and also close to Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, who brought him equal joy as a pastor.

      We will celebrate the funeral Mass for Bishop Guy Gaucher in the Basilica of Lisieux on Thursday, July 10, at 3:00 p.m. “Thérèse’s bishop” then will be laid to rest in the cemetery of Lisieux among his Carmelite brothers, not far from the first tomb of St. Thérèse or from the tombs of other members of the Martin and Guérin families.

      From our hearts we invite you all to be present with us or to unite yourself to us in prayer in this celebration, at which Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, will preside. 

      We share with the family of Monsigneur Gaucher, with all our Carmelite brothers and sisters, and with all his friends, their pain and their hope.

--Father Olivier Ruffray, Rector of the Shrine at Lisieux
Father Olivier Ruffray was appointed Rector of the Shrine of St. Thérèse, Lisieux, on October 6, 2013. A priest since 1989, Father Ruffray has served in various parishes and spent 14 years as pastor of Notre-Dame de l’Estuaire in Honfleur.

Father Ruffray grew up in Lisieux, and he says that St. Thérèse was like a big sister for him, always with him to show him the path to Jesus and teaching him to love the Church. He also admires the generosity and deep spirituality of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the holy parents of St. Thérèse, and prays for their timely canonization. 

We thank Father Olivier Ruffray for his generous permission to translate this tribute, which appeared in French on the Facebook page of the Shrine at Lisieux, and Mary Davidson for her translation.

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