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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

"An Encounter with Saint Therese of Lisieux," a retreat day at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Clara, California on Saturday, September 11, 2017


Therese Martin, aged 15, in April 1888

I'm delighted to announce that, at the invitation of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of Santa Clara, California, I will have the joy of presenting three conferences about St. Therese and Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin at a retreat day, open to the public, at the Carmel of the Infant Jesus, the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Santa Clara.  Please click here for my page with details.  

Posted on Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 02:23PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Day Nine: Twenty years ago today, Pope John Paul II formally declares St. Therese a Doctor of the Universal Church. Divini Amoris Scientia, his Apostolic Letter, 19 October 1997

A poster of St. Therese displayed at the Basilica at Lisieux in 2009. Photo credit: Peter Klostermann

11.  This year, when the centenary of the glorious death of Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is being celebrated, as we prepare to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, after receiving a great number of authoritative petitions, especially from many Espiscopal Conferences throughout the world, and after accepting the official petition, or Supplex Libellus, addressed to me on 8 March 1997 by the Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, as well as from the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and from the Postulator General of the same order, I decided to entrust the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which has competence in this matter, with the special study of the cause for conferring the title of Doctor on this Saint, "after hearing the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the eminent doctrine" (Apost. Const. Pastor Bonus, n. 73).

After the necessary documentation had been collected, the two above-mentioned Congregations addressed the question in the meetings of their respective consultors: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 5 May 1997, with regard to the "eminent doctrine," and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 29 May of the same year, to examine the special "Positio." On the following 17 June, the Cardinals and Bishops who are members of these Congregations, following a procedure approved by me for this occasion, met in a plenary interdicasterial session and discussed the cause, giving a unanimously favorable opinion on granting the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. I was personally informed of this opinion by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and by the Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Alberto Bovone, titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia.

In view of this, on 24 August last, during the Angelus prayer in the presence of hundreds of Bishops and before a vast throng of young people from around the world, gathered in Paris for the 12th World Youth Day, I wanted personally to announce my intention to proclaim Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church during the celebration of World Mission Sunday in Rome.

Today, 19 October 1997, in St Peter's Square, filled with faithful from every part of the world, and in the presence of a great many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, during the solemn Eucharistic celebration I proclaimed Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church in these words:

Fulfilling the wishes of many Brothers in the Episcopate and of a great number of the faithful throughout the world, after consulting the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and hearing the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding her eminent doctrine, with certain knowledge and after lengthy reflection, with the fullness of Our apostolic authority We declare Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, virgin, to be a Doctor of the Universal Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This having been duly enacted, We decree that this Apostolic Letter is to be religiously preserved and to have full effect both now and in the future; furthermore, it is thus to be judged and defined as right, and whatever to the contrary may be attempted by anyone, on whatever authority, knowingly or unknowingly, is null and void.

Given in Rome, at St Peter's, under the Fisherman's ring, the 19th day of the month of October in the year of the Lord 1997, the 20th of the Pontificate.

excerpted from "Divini Amoris Scientia," the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II declaring St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church.


Posted on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 10:45PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Day Eight: Pope John Paul II on Therese as a woman, a contemplative, a young person. Divini Amoris Scientia, the Apostolic Letter naming her a Doctor of the Church. October 18, 2017

 Statue of St. Therese, Doctor of the Church. Carmelite Monstery: Philadelphia. Therese holds the doctoral biretta, symbol of her authority as teacher, in one hand. The images of the child and of the Holy Face reflect the two mysteries to which she was especially consecrated by her name in religion, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.

10.  All these reasons are clear evidence of how timely is the Saint of Lisieux's doctrine and of the particular impact her message has had on the men and women of our century. Moreover, some circumstances contribute to making her designation as a Teacher for the Church of our time even more significant.

First of all, Therese is a woman, who in approaching the Gospel knew how to grasp its hidden wealth with that practicality and deep resonance of life and wisdom which belong to the feminine genius. Because of her universality she stands out among the multitude of holy women who are resplendent for their Gospel wisdom.

Therese is also a contemplative. In the hiddenness of her Carmel she lived the great adventure of Christian experience to the point of knowing the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ's love (cf. Eph 3:18-19). God did not want his secrets to remain hidden, but enabled Therese to proclaim the secrets of the King (cf. Ms C, 2v). By her life Therese offers a witness and theological illustration of the beauty of the contemplative life as the total dedication to Christ, Spouse of the Church, and as an affirmation of God's primacy over all things. Hers is a hidden life which possesses a mysterious fruitfulness for spreading the Gospel and fills the Church and the world with the sweet odor of Christ (cf. LT 169, 2v).

Lastly, Therese of Lisieux is a young person. She reached the maturity of holiness in the prime of youth (cf. Ms C, 4r). As such, she appears as a Teacher of evangelical life, particularly effective in illumining the paths of young people, who must be the leaders and witnesses of the Gospel to the new generations.

Therese of the Child Jesus is not only the youngest Doctor of the Church, but is also the closest to us in time, as if to emphasize the continuity with which the Spirit of the Lord sends his messengers to the Church, men and women as teachers and witnesses to the faith. In fact, whatever changes can be noted in the course of history and despite the repercussions they usually have on the life and thought of individuals in every age, we must never lose sight of the continuity which links the Doctors of the Church to each other: in every historical context they remain witnesses to the unchanging Gospel and, with the light and strength that come from the Holy Spirit, they become its messengers, returning to proclaim it in its purity to their contemporaries. Therese is a Teacher for our time, which thirsts for living and essential words, for heroic and credible acts of witness. For this reason she is also loved and accepted by brothers and sisters of other Christian communities and even by non-Christians.

excerpted from "Divini Amoris Scientia," the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II declaring St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church.

Posted on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 10:26PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Day Seven – Pope John Paul II on Therese’s “exceptional universality;” she has received from the Church “a remarkable welcome which has transcended every border.” Divini Amoris Scientia, Apostolic Letter naming her a Doctor of the Church. October 17, 2017

Detail of St. Therese from the "People Power" mosaic by Manuel Boldemor, a gift of the Filipino community to the Basilica at Lisieux
9. The spiritual doctrine of Therese of Lisieux has helped extend the kingdom of God. By her example of holiness, of perfect fidelity to Mother Church, of full communion with the See of Peter, as well as by the special graces obtained by her for many missionary brothers and sisters, she has rendered a particular service to the renewed proclamation and experience of Christ's Gospel and to the extension of the Catholic faith in every nation on earth.

There is no need to dwell at length on the universality of Therese's doctrine and on the broad reception of her message during the century since her death: it has been well documented in the studies made in view of conferring on her the title of Doctor of the Church.

A particularly important fact in this regard is that the Church's Magisterium has not only recognized Therese's holiness, but has also highlighted the wisdom of her doctrine. Piux X had already said that she was "the greatest saint of modern times". On joyfully receiving the first Italian edition of the Story of a Soul, he extolled the fruits that had resulted from Therese's spirituality. Benedict XV, on the occasion of proclaiming the Servant of God's heroic virtues, explained the way of spiritual childhood and praised the knowledge of divine realities which God granted to Therese in order to teach others the ways of salvation (cf. AAS 13 [1921], pp. 449-452). On the occasion of both her beatification and canonization, Pius XI wished to expound and recommend the Saint's doctrine, underscoring her special divine enlightenment (Discorsi di Pio XI, vol. I, Turin 1959, p. 91) and describing her as a teacher of life (cf. AAS 17 [1925], pp. 211-214). When the Basilica of Lisieux was consecrated in 1954, Pius XII said, among other things, that Therese penetrated to the very heart of the Gospel with her doctrine (cf. AAS 46 [1954], pp. 404-408). Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, visited Lisieux several times, especially when he was Nuncio in Paris. On various occasions during his pontificate he showed his devotion to the Saint and explained the relationship between the doctrine of the Saint of Avila and her daughter, Therese of Lisieux (Discorsi, Messaggi, Colloqui, vol. II [1959-1960], pp. 771-772). Many times during the celebration of the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers recalled her example and doctrine. On the centenary of her birth, Paul VI addressed a Letter on 2 January 1973 to the Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux**, in which he extolled Therese's example in the search for God, offered her as a teacher of prayer and theological virtue of hope, and a model of communion with the Church, calling the attention of teachers, educators, pastors and theologians themselves to the study of her doctrine (cf. AAS 65 [1973], pp. 12-15). I myself on various occasions have had the joy of recalling the person and doctrine of the Saint, especially during my unforgettable visit to Lisieux on 2 June 1980, when I wished to remind everyone: "One can say with conviction about Therese of Lisieux that the Spirit of God allowed her heart to reveal directly to the people of our time the fundamental mystery, the reality of the Gospel.... Her 'little way' is the way of 'holy childhood'. There is something unique in this way, the genius of St. Therese of Lisieux. At the same time there is the confirmation of renewal of the most basic and most universal truth. What truth of the Gospel message is really more basic and more universal than this: God is our Father and we are his children?" (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, vol. III/1 [1980], p. 1659).

These simple references to an uninterrupted series of testimonies from the Popes of this century on the holiness and doctrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and to the universal dissemination of her message clearly express to what extent  the Church, in her pastors and her faithful, has accepted the spiritual doctrine of this young Saint.

A sign of the ecclesial reception of the Saint's teaching is the appeal to her doctrine in many documents of the Church's ordinary Magisterium, especially when speaking of the contemplative and missionary vocation, of trust in the just and merciful God, of Christian joy and of the call to holiness. Evidence of this fact is the presence of her doctrine in the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 127, 826, 956, 1011, 2011, 2558). She who so loved to learn the truths of the faith in the catechism deserved to be included among the authoritative witnesses of Catholic doctrine.

Therese possesses an exceptional universality. Her person, the Gospel message of the "little way" of trust and spiritual childhood have received and continues to receive a remarkable welcome, which has transcended every border.

The influence of her message extends first of all to men and women whose holiness and heroic virtues the Church herself has recognized, to the Church's pastors, to experts in theology and spirituality, to priests and seminarians, to men and women religious, to ecclesial movements and new communities, to men and women of every condition and every continent. To everyone Therese gives her personal confirmation that the Christian mystery, whose witness and apostle she became by making herself in prayer "the apostle of the apostles", as she boldly calls herself (Ms A, 56r), must be taken literally, with the greatest possible realism, because it has a value for every time and place. The power of her message lies in its concrete explanation of how all Jesus' promises are fulfilled in the believer who knows how confidently to welcome in his own life the saving presence of the Redeemer.

excerpted from "Divini Amoris Scientia," the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II declaring St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church.

**[Editor's note: Please see this "Letter of Pope Paul VI to the Bishop of Bayeux on the centenary of the birth of St. Therese of Lisieux, January 2, 1973."


Posted on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 09:46PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Day Six - Pope John Paul II sets forth the source of St. Therese's spiritual teaching: the Word of God, the teaching of the Church, the Imitation of Christ, and the texts of Teresa of Avila and Therese's "true spiritual master," St. John of the Cross - Divini Amoris Scientia, the Apostolic Letter declaring St. Therese a Doctor of the Church. October 16, 2017

The Martin family's book of the Sunday epistles and gospels, on display at Les Buissonnets

8.  The primary source of her spiritual experience and her teaching is the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. She herself admits it, particularly stressing her passionate love for the Gospel (cf. Ms A, 83v). Her writings contain over 1,000 biblical quotations: more than 400 from the Old Testament and over 600 from the New.

Despite her inadequate training and lack of resources for studying and interpreting the sacred books, Therese immersed herself in meditation on the Word of God with exceptional faith and spontaneity. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit she attained a profound knowledge of Revelation for herself and for others. By her loving concentration on Scripture - she even wanted to learn Hebrew and Greek to understand better the spirit and letter of the sacred books - she showed the importance of the biblical sources in the spiritual life, she emphasized the originality and freshness of the Gospel, she cultivated with moderation the spiritual exegesis of the Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments. Thus she discovered hidden treasures, appropriating words and episodes, sometimes with supernatural boldness, as when, in reading the texts of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 12-13), she realized her vocation to love (cf. Ms B, 3r-3v). Enlightened by the revealed Word, Therese wrote brilliant pages on the unity between love of God and love of neighbor (cf. Ms C, 11v-19r); and she identified with Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper as the expression of her intercession for the salvation of all (cf. Ms C, 34r-35r).

Her doctrine, as was said, conforms to the Church's teaching. From childhood she was taught by her family to participate in prayer and liturgical worship. In preparation for her first Confession, first Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation, she gave evidence of an extraordinary love for the truths of the faith, and she learned the Catechism almost word for word (cf. Ms A, 37r-37v). At the end of her life she wrote the Apostles' Creed in her own blood, as an expression of her unreserved attachment to the profession of faith.

In addition to the words of Scripture and the Church's doctrine, Therese was nourished as a youth by the teaching of the Imitation of Christ, which, as she herself acknowledges, she knew almost by heart (cf. Ms A, 47r).

Decisive for fulfilling her Carmelite vocation were the spiritual texts of the Mother Foundress, Teresa of Jesus, especially those explaining the contemplative and ecclesial meaning of the charism of the Teresian Carmel (cf. Ms C, 33v). But in a very special way, Therese was nourished on the mystical doctrine of St John of the Cross, who was her true spiritual master (cf. Ms A, 83r). It should cause no surprise, then, if she who had been an outstanding pupil in the school of these two Saints, later declared Doctors of the Church, should later become a master of the spiritual life.

excerpted from "Divini Amoris Scientia," the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II declaring St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church.

Posted on Monday, October 16, 2017 at 11:38PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint