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"Why I Love You, O Therese" by Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.

"Why I Love You, O Therese" by Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.

Guy Gaucher, O.C.D. Photo courtesy of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of Paris 

At the beginning of the month of July 2005, Bishop Guy Gaucher became emeritus bishop of the Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux; that is to say, having reached the age of seventy-five, the age at which bishops submit their resignation to the Pope, he retired from the position he held in the diocese and also the position he held at the Lisieux Pilgrimage Centre, both of which he had served for eighteen years.

Several gatherings marked his departure, one with the diocesan priests at Caen, on Thursday 16th June, and another on Sunday, June 19th in the basilica of Lisieux, in the presence of Pierre Pican, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux.

During that thanksgiving service, Bishop Guy Gaucher gave the homily which is reproduced here.

Guy Gaucher’s life was influenced by Thérèse of Lisieux, whom he made known through many lectures, articles, and works, the most important of which is Story of a Life (Cerf) [English translation published by Harper and Row].

The enormous engagement that Guy had as a Carmelite, before he became bishop, continued throughout his Episcopate.  This, plus the support and energy he gives the Lisieux Pilgrimage Centre, the talent with which he presents the Theresian message, and the friendship that he shares with everyone, can all be seen in a concise form in his letter to Thérèse.  The Rector of the Lisieux Pilgrimage Centre is pleased to share this fiery testimony of love with all those who love Thérèse, and for whom Bishop Guy Gaucher has been, and continues to be, a guide to make her known.

Thank you, Guy.

Bernard Lagoutte
St. Thérèse Shrine, Lisieux.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

For this thanksgiving service, allow me, for once, not to ponder exclusively upon the Word of God.

In this Basilica where I celebrate my farewell Eucharist to the Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, and to the Lisieux Pilgrimage Centre, I would like to share with you one more time what I owe to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.

Of course, every thanksgiving goes first and foremost to the Triune God.  It is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the beginning and the end of everything, who lead the Church, who lead the world, who lead each one of us.  But God’s grace goes through intermediaries, mediators.  Thérèse Martin is one of these favoured ones.

Now that I am going to practice my Episcopal ministry in a different way--for the mission continues--I would like to give thanks for this young woman, this “beacon of our century” as Father Congar said, by way of a meditation, a testimony, which one could entitle “Why I love you, O Thérèse."

 Like so many others, at first I experienced only indifference, if not scorn, toward you, Thérèse.  Your statue in my parish, the ‘Orphelins d’Auteuil,' held hardly any attraction for me.  At the age of twenty-two, I passed through Lisieux without bothering to visit your Carmel.  Everything seemed to distance me from you: these countless merchants who offered your honeyed image, which was ugly because too “pretty”; the little--very little--I knew about you: your Catholic environment, which had turned in on itself; your collectively canonizable family; your ‘Belle Epoque,’ which exasperated me with its narrow moralism, its conformist art, its naïve confidence in Progress; your pious language; your “angelic” life at the Carmel, with its strange rules, its black veils and grilles; your romantic death as the “young girl of the rose” («de jeune fille á la rose»).

As for those who sang your praises, they irritated me even more.  Truly, you had everything against you.

These difficult situations quite suit you: you love a fight.  How are you going to go about moving us deeply, “catching” us, penetrating our lives like a burglar, yet without imposing your presence.  Sometimes you strike like lightning; sometimes you take your time.  Often you need only reveal your true face.  Who can resist your secret charm?  Those who do not receive this Theresian grace.  Because, of course, there has to be grace there.  Grace which annihilates, as if playing a game, the wall of obstacles that has been built up at a whim.  So that, if you ask me why I love you, I can only reply—because it’s you.  Which, obviously, doesn’t explain anything.  But I have been asked to give reasons.  So, let us look for them.

I love you because you remain constantly surprising, an elusive, puzzling personality.  You are nothing like the wooden image that I pictured before.  You surprised even yourself by the contrasts in your character.  It is true, I believed you to be vapid, even though your intuitive mind never rests.  You are always searching, never satisfied with your discoveries.  You always want to go farther, especially where God is concerned.  But you also know how to weigh up those around you; You are not taken in by those who try to impress.

Sometimes you are gentle, shy; sometimes you are a virgin warrior hungry for glory, fascinated by your sister, Joan of Arc.  Persistent, bold, daring, you pursue your goal: to die for love.

At first I took you for a pious little girl, a young lady from a good family, an exemplary nun yet passionately in love with Jesus, your Beloved, using the informal ‘tu’ form to address him in private.  For him, you risk everything: you run down the street after your bishop so that he might move forward the date of your First Communion; you go to see him at Bayeux (hair tied back to make you look older) so that he would agree to let you enter the Carmelite Order at fifteen; you appeal to the Pope for the same permission.  You were so sure of yourself.  For love alone, you became “delirious” in September 1896, suffering infinite desires that burdened your heart: you want to be a Priest, a Doctor of the Church, a missionary, a martyr . . . is this reasonable?  No.  You know that, but you don’t give up.  You have to find a solution and you will find it.

 Unassuming, quiet, and yet brave (much more so than your sister Céline), you proceed alone along unfamiliar paths. “And my own folly is this, to trust . . . ”.  Your youth and your littleness is your strength.

I love you because your “little way," your brilliant Eureka, rediscovers the heart of the Gospel at a time when Christians were torn apart by a multitude of obligations, duties, and practices often done out of fear, obsessed with the Justice of God.  You go right to the fundamental issue with clear simplicity, inflexible as steel.  “As for me, I no longer find anything in books, with the exception of the Gospel.  The Gospel is enough.”

I love you because you remained a child, or, rather, you rediscovered all the graces of a child at maturity, a privilege so rare.  At twelve or thirteen you must have been unbearable with your endless tears; your looks of a Magdalene who “would cry because she had cried." What a contrast with the maturity you had in later years (when you were a little moire than twenty), something that older Carmelites came to you seeking.

I love you for your sense of humour: you have no illusions about yourself or those around you.  You love the saints who joke, who are always cheerful, who are very fond of their families.  That is also why we love you.  When you reach maturity, about 1895, it seems to me that you are finally completely yourself: you breathe life, you freely love nature, flowers, animals, the sky, the stars . .  . but first and foremost you love humankind, especially the poor in your community.  In your vocation of solitude--O paradox!--your feminine nature blossoms.  Your emotions, at first so disrupted (you had a rough start in life: the loss of successive mothers, your serious illness, your scruples, the “sorrows of your soul," your excessive sensitivity) stabilised, and you loved all your sisters, and your two spiritual brothers even though they were young.  You moved with astonishing ease through the pettinesses and misunderstandings of the cloistered life, without despising anyone: taking care of each one and loving them just as they were.

I love you because you are true, love truth, and fight for it, mercilessly tracking down the prevarications, the small “pious” hypocrisies.  You preferred to be sent away from the Carmel rather than to let Sister Marthe, your companion during the novitiate, become attached to Mother Marie Gonzague “like a dog to its master."  You like clarity.  How you must have suffered when you found yourself at the center of the influences of all your Mothers, who wanted to model you according to their ideal.  You knew how to escape them, to be steadfast on your road of freedom, and to surrender yourself to God alone; to follow your path, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  You do not want to seem but to be.  Too bad if that displeased them.

I love you because at the end of your life you entered darkness and took your place at “the table of sinners."  You left the Catholic ghetto, which looked down on those “great sinners” from atop its clear conscience.  You go to seek your “first child” in prison, where he awaits the guillotine.  Henri Pranzini will die forgiven without knowing what he owes you, but you, you will never forget him.  Among your companions, we note also Hyacinthe Loyson, the former provincial of the Carmelites, married, who rebelled against papal infallibility: you consider him your “brother."  Confined to your sickbed, you offer your last communion for him and offer your suffering for René Tostain, that morally irreproachable atheist who married your cousin, Marguerite Maudelonde.  You experienced the trials of faith confronted by God’s silence, by giddy calls to “nothingness," by temptations to suicide, by moral and physical sufferings in many forms.  Through all that, you kept the hope of a bold young woman gambling her whole life on love, without ever playing the stoic: staying little and vulnerable.

I love you because you revealed to me the spirit of Carmel and because, through you, God has inspired many people to surrender themselves to Love in the heart of the Church, by way of freely given, silent prayer.  Patron of the missions of the whole world, you are the proof of the mysterious efficacy of this concealed prayer.  All your posthumous life shows this, proclaims it.  Little unknown Carmelite, you inspired Vatican I; you are a teacher of life for all generations, in all walks of life.  You democratised holiness by living faith, hope, and love in everyday life, the life of many people.

I love you because, cheerful and daring little girl, you overturned the heavy ecclesiastical apparatus.  Grave investigators wanted to make you fit the model of a definable sanctity.  You foiled all their plans, and, for you, it was necessary to shorten the time regulations [for examining a candidate for sainthood].  That was easy: all the Popes were your friends.  You showered the world with countless miracles, sometimes novel ones in which your sense of humour could be seen.

I love you, finally--I should stop the litany--as a sign, a reflection, a proof (what world shall I use?) of the Merciful Love of the Father manifested to the world through Jesus and the Holy Spirit which blows where it wants to.  If the Trinity made you a “masterpiece of nature and grace,” we must give thanks in adoring silence.  “For you, God, even silence is praise” (Ps. 64)

I love you because you are a brave and intrepid missionary of Jesus in our secularised world.  During my seventeen years here at Lisieux I was able to see, through contact with crowds from all over the world, the power of your action on their hearts, on people from all classes of society, all countries, all languages.

I was also blessed to observe the incredible impact of your travels across the world.  Since 1994, your Relics have reached the five continents, I have seen it with my own eyes: in Italy, Belgium, New York, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Canada, Russia, Ireland, Lebanon, Benin, Poland . . . You are truly a sister to the world.

I love you because everything you wrote is true, and you always keep your promises, this one among others: “I will spend my heaven doing good on Earth until the end of the world”.

I love you, finally--I really have to stop--because one of your promises was fulfilled on October 19th, 1997, one hundred years after your death: “Ah! In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors . . .” (Ms B, 3 r°)

Here I would like to include in my thanksgiving Pope John Paul II.  All of my episcopate took place during his pontificate.

Now, if Thérèse was declared a Doctor of the Church at the age of 24, the youngest in two thousand years; it’s really thanks to him who wanted it, overcoming every obstacle, realising that her “feminine genius” made a major contribution to the “Science of Divine Love” (the title of his Apostolic Letter of October 19, 1997).

 This is also a good opportunity to give thanks to John Paul II, another mediator of divine grace for our world.  How can we doubt that, since the proceedings for his Beatification open, exceptionally, next June 28th, he will soon join his friend Thérèse as a canonised saint?


 “Our Church is the Church of Saints,” wrote Bernanos.  Let us praise God for his Saints, give thanks for their existence: they are signs for the world that the Gospel is alive everywhere, in all walks of life.  They are our guides, our teachers, our friends; they help us along our way.  They are God’s family.  Thérèse said “Who could have invented the Blessed Virgin?”.  One could say “Who could have invented Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face?,” at the same time so near and so far away, so ordinary and so extraordinary: this little Norman woman, loved in all the world, 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.  Yes, thank you Lord for having given us Saint Therese of Lisieux.  Praise be to you for this young woman who fully answered the call of your Merciful Love.

These are some reasons why I love you, O Thérèse.

Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.
Basilica of Lisieux
June 19, 2005

We thank Fr. J. Linus Ryan, O. Carm. for permission to share this text with you.  It was first published at www.sttherese.com.

Posted on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 12:32AM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you so much! What more beautiful tribute to Bishop Gaucher could there be than these passionate words, so sweetly modeled on St. Therese's poem, "Why I Love You, O Mary." Even as he retired, his great learning and love for the little Carmelite burned so brightly that he had to rein it in, saying, "I must stop...just one more reason why I love you, Therese."
Adieu, Bishop Gaucher. We will be in prayer on July 10 with all Carmelites and lovers of St. Therese.

July 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMary Davidson

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