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"Therese of Lisieux the Woman, Doctor of the Church" - October 10, 2017

Statue of St. Therese, St. Pierre's Cathedral, Lisieux

Thérèse of Lisieux the Woman, Doctor of the Church


29. The experience and doctrine of Thérèse of Lisieux gain special significance in our day when new horizons are opening up for the presence and action of women in society and in the Church. Women are called to be "signs of God's tender love towards the human race,"and to enrich humanity with their "feminine genius."25 The young Carmelite of Lisieux accomplished both things in her life. We can see this clearly in her writings.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus transmits her spiritual experience with an engaging feminine style that is direct and intimate. Despite the expectations of her times, she manifested her Gospel conviction on the equality of men and women and the importance of mutual collaboration as disciples of Jesus. We can see this especially in her letters to her missionary brothers with whom she shares her human and spiritual experiences. She does not hesitate to express her point of view on theological issues and Christian experience. She writes about her concept of God's justice, the way of spiritual childhood, and trust in divine mercy.

30. Her femininity, like that of Teresa of Jesus, resulted in greater commitment to the Gospel and to overcoming all the prejudices that emarginated women of her times. Thérèse of Lisieux knew from experience what it was to be a woman in society and in the church at the end of the 18th century. In manuscript A, she tells us clearly and humorously what she felt during her trip to Rome before entering Carmel:

    I still cannot understand why women are so easily excommunicated in Italy, for every minute someone was saying: "Don't enter here. Don't enter there, you will be excommunicated!" Ah! poor women, how they are misunderstood! And yet they love God in much larger numbers than men do; and during the Passion of Our Lord, women had more courage than the apostles since they braved the insults of the soldiers and dared to dry the adorable Face of Jesus.26

Her womanhood, which she expressed with the freshness and sincerity of a free person, led her to a reflection on the Gospel: the emargination of women makes them participate more closely in the mystery of Christ who was despised at his passion. "It is undoubtedly because of this that He allows misunderstanding to be their lot on earth, since he chose it for himself. …In heaven, He will show that His thoughts are not men's thoughts, for then the last will be first."27 Jesus made women the first witnesses of his resurrection.

31. Today as areas for greater participation in society and church open up for women, they can find encouragement in Thérèse of Lisieux to live as John Paul II said, " a culture of equality between men and women." Again Hans Urs von Baltahasar noted, on the occasion of the celebrations for centenary of Thérèse of Lisieux's birth, that she opened the whole field of theology to feminine reflection: "The theology of women has never been taken seriously nor integrated by the establishment. However, after the message of Lisieux, it must finally consider it in the present reconstruction of Dogmatic Theology."28

This corresponds to what the postsynodal document Vita Consecrata presents as new perspectives for women in the Church: "In the field of theological, cultural, and spiritual studies, much can be expected from the genius of women, not only in relation to specific aspects of feminine consecrated life, but also in understanding the faith in all its expressions."29



32. God surprises us anew with this sister of ours. In her he breaks so many patterns of human logic in a way that calls attention to his own gratuitous initiative in choosing those he wants. God seeks to realize his works and manifest the greatness of his power and action in those who open themselves confidently to his merciful love as they accomplish his will.

With the proclamation of the doctorate of St. Thérèse, the Lord confirms what the Old Testament states and the New Testament restates in its fullness: that God communicates himself to the simple, giving them his wisdom and revealing to them the secrets of his life and workings throughout history. In effect, as the book of Wisdom told at the threshold of Christ's coming: "Length of days is not what makes age honorable, nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, this is grey hairs; untarnished life, this is ripe old age. Having won God's favor, he has been loved. …Having come to perfection so soon, he has lived long" (Wis 4:8-10, 13). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, full of joy in the Holy Spirit, proclaims a divine logic so very different from ours: "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it has pleased you to do" (Lk 10:21-22).

33. The Lord, Father of all light, from whom comes all that is good, all that is perfect (cf. Jm 1:17), has given Carmel yet another gift with Thérèse of Lisieux's doctorate. It is a free gift that demands a response of love and generous commitment to our vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. May our sister Thérèse of Lisieux obtain for us from the Lord the grace to be his collaborators in bearing witness and proclaiming the good news to our brothers and sisters of the third millennium. May we be authentic followers of Jesus, in communion with Mary, the first one to receive the joyful news of salvation and who proclaimed it with the joy of one who has discovered that God gives himself freely to the poor, humble, and simple.

Rome, 1 October, 1997

 - excerpted from Therese, A Doctor for the Third Millennium, the joint pastoral letter written by the Carmelite superiors general,  Fr. Camilo Maccise, O.C.D. and Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm., when Therese was named a doctor in 1997.  For the footnotes, please follow the link to the complete document.

Posted on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 08:23PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment

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