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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

"The Science of Divine Love" - Apostolic Letter Declaring St. Therese a Doctor of the Church - Day One - October 11, 2017

St. Therese with the map of Asia


Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II

Proclaiming St. Therese a Doctor of the Church

October 19, 1997

To prepare for the 20th anniversary of Therese's doctorate on October 19, in nine days of preparation let's meditate on a different section of the Apostolic Letter each day.  

  1.  THE SCIENCE OF DIVINE LOVE, which the Father of mercies pours out through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, is a gift granted to the little and the humble so that they may know and proclaim the secrets of the kingdom, hidden from the learned and the wise; for this reason Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, praising the Father who graciously willed it so (cf. Lk 10:21-22; Mt 11:25-26).

Mother Church also rejoices in noting that throughout history the Lord has continued to reveal himself to the little and the humble, enabling his chosen ones, through the Spirit who "searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10), to speak of the gifts "bestowed on us by God... in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language" (1 Cor 2:12,13). In this way the Holy Spirit guides the Church into the whole truth, endowing her with various gifts, adorning her with his fruits, rejuvenating her with the power of the Gospel and enabling her to discern the signs of the times in order to respond ever more fully to the will of God (cf, Lumen gentium, nn. 4, 12; Gaudium et spes, n. 4).

Shining brightly among the little ones to whom the secrets of the kingdom were revealed in a most special way is Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, a professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, the 100th anniversary of whose entry into the heavenly homeland occurs this year.

During her life Therese discovered "new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings" (Ms A, 83v) and received from the divine Teacher that "science of love" which she then expressed with particular originality in her writings (cf. Ms B, 1r). This science is the luminous expression of her knowledge of the mystery of the kingdom and of her personal experience of grace. It can be considered a special charism of Gospel wisdom which Therese, like other saints and teachers of faith, attained in prayer (cf. Ms C, 36r).

2. The reception given to the example of her life and Gospel teaching in our century was quick, universal and constant. As if in imitation of her precocious spiritual maturity, her holiness was recognized by the Church in the space of a few years. In fact, on 10 June 1914 Pius X signed the decree introducing her cause of beatification; on 14 August 1921 Benedict XV declared the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, giving an address for the occasion on the way of spiritual childhood; and Pius XI proclaimed her blessed on 29 April 1923. Shortly afterwards, on 17 May 1925, the same Pope canonized her before an immense crowd in St Peter's Basilica, highlighting the splendor of her virtues and the originality of her doctrine. Two years later, on 14 December 1927, in response to the petition of many missionary Bishops, he proclaimed her patron of the missions along with St. Francis Xavier.

Beginning with these acts of recognition, the spiritual radiance of Therese of the Child Jesus increased in the Church and spread throughout the world. Many institutes of consecrated life and ecclesial movements, especially in the young Churches, chose her as their patron and teacher, taking their inspiration from her spiritual doctrine. Her message, often summarized in the so-called "little way", which is nothing other that the Gospel way of holiness for all, was studied by theologians and experts in spirituality. Cathedrals, basilicas, shrines and churches throughout the world were built and dedicated to the Lord under the patronage of the Saint of Lisieux. The Catholic Church venerates her in the various Eastern and Western rites. Many of the faithful have been able to experience the power of her intercession. Many of those called to the priestly ministry or the consecrated life, especially in the missions and cloister, attribute the divine grace of their vocation to her intercession and example.

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 10:16PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

St. John XXIII's famous "moonlight speech" (October 11, 1962) on the night he opened the Second Vatican Council was inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux

"I didn't know what to say.  I turned to my Teresina." - Pope John XXIII

Fifty-five years ago tonight, on the night of October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII  gave the most popular and memorable papal speech of all time, known as his "moonlight speech."  I discovered that, as he said privately that night, this famous off-the-cuff speech, which broke new ground in papal communications, was inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux.  Gianni Gennari broke the story in his November 30, 2013 article "La storia 'vera' del Discorso papale piu celebre di tutti tempi" ("The true story of the most celebrated papal discourse of all times") for Vatican Insider (La stampa).  This story appeared only in Italian, and I discovered it only while researching for the feast of St. John XXIII.  I thank Vatican Insider for this valuable story.

On the night of October 11, 1962, thousands of people, many carrying torches, made their way to St. Peter's Square to celebrate the opening of the historic Second Vatican Council.  Naturally, they hoped the Pope would speak to them.  Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla, seated, in red robes as a cardinal, among other ecclesiastics dressed in white.  He is applauding.Cardinal Capovilla. Photo credit: Salvador MirandaPope John's secretary, then-Monsignor and now Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla (alive and well at age 98 in 2014!), told Gennari that the Pope was at first reluctant to address the crowd.  No doubt tired after this great day, Pope John said "I do not want to speak!  I've already said everything this morning."  But, seeing how many people were waiting with festive torchlights, Pope John relented, asked for his stole, and came to the window (then already "the Pope's window," and now the place from which the Pope delivers his Angelus message on Sundays).

First, please watch "The speech of a lifetime," a brief two-minute reflection in English on this historic night.


Now, to see this memorable torchlit night in Rome and hear the Pope's words, watch this beautiful two-minute film:  


 His impromptu remarks are called "the moonlight speech" because he said:

Here all the world is represented. One might even say that the moon rushed here this evening – Look at her high up there – to behold this spectacle.

You can hear in the video how the people began to laugh and applaud as soon as he mentioned the moon.  Among his most famous words:

When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say,“This is a hug from the Pope.

What a departure from the formal Papal words of the past!  

Pope John's secretary now tells us that these words were inspired directly by St. Therese of Lisieux.  

After speaking, and seeing and hearing the enthusiasm of the people in the square who were captivated by his enchanting words, the Pope came in.  Taking off his stole, he gave it to Monsignor Capovilla and said in these exact words:  "I did not know what to say. I turned to my Teresina [my "little Therese"].  Behold, the help of St. Therese of Lisieux was the origin of this stroke of true imagination, of 'creative' and communicative genius  which, in fact, is considered the most famous and popular papal speech of all time.

[my translation from  "The true story of the most celebrated papal discourse of all times") for Vatican Insider (La stampa)].

How Therese's love for the people and for children shone out in the words she inspired in Pope John!  Read the full text of this short "speech on the moon" at the Web site of "Salt and Light Media."  We thank them and Capuchins Fr. Stefano Penna and Br. Scott Surrency, who translated it.  There you can also read Pope Benedict's words in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council when he recalled that night:

"Fifty years ago on this day I too was in this square, gazing towards this window where the good Pope, Blessed Pope John looked out and spoke unforgettable words to us, words that were full of poetry and goodness, words that came from his heart."

Finally, see this April 24, 2014 story from Vatican Radio, which contains a link to a radio show which interviews those who heard this historic speech and some who knew Pope John.  At that radio show you can also hear Pope John's valiant attempt to welcome pilgrims in English. [I am sorry; the linked page has disappeared from the Web). 

May St. Therese, who inspired Pope John with these "unforgettable words," continue to inspire Pope Francis and all of us.

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 08:45PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , , , | Comments1 Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"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 | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of Faith for an Unbelieving World" - October 9, 2017

A starry night near Lisieux; Photo credit: L'instantane Normandie

Doctor of Faith for an Unbelieving World


26. The relevance of the doctrine of Thérèse of Lisieux to atheism and unbelief is very plain to see. The Second Vatican Council, in analyzing contemporary atheism, indicated that the word "atheism" covers quite different realities:

    For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that people can assert absolutely nothing about God. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. …Again some form for themselves such a fallacious ideal of God that when they repudiate this figment they are by no means rejecting the God of the Gospel. …Moreover, atheism results not rarely from a violent protest against the evil in this world.20

Through Thérèse of Lisieux's spiritual experience, God desired to speak tangibly to the world of unbelief. She struggled with her faith in the midst of a world that, in the name of science and rationalism, denied the existence of God and turned to atheism.

27. In today's world nonbelievers are different from those in the time of Thérèse. Having experienced the collapse of atheistic and materialistic systems and the frustration of modern life, agnostics and those who are simply indifferent are searching for something that will give meaning to life. They experience vaguely a call to an absolute that could fill their existential emptiness and satisfy their aspirations.

Thérèse of Lisieux directly confronted anguish in the face of death. The atheist's questions about the existence of God and of an afterlife became her problem when, in her trial of faith, she was suddenly submerged in an abyss of anguish and there experienced the distress of nothingness. She was deprived of what she calls "the joy of faith"; she could not "enjoy this beautiful heaven on earth."21 She entered a place of deep darkness that surrounded her and threatened to overwhelm her. She seemed to hear the darkness say: "You believe that one day you will walk out of this fog which surrounds you! Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness."22

28. In the midst of this situation, Thérèse of Lisieux was able to keep her faith and love alive. Her experience of the dark night of purification transformed her so that she was in real and fruitful solidarity with those drowning in the sea of unbelief. Before she experienced the trial of faith, she could not accept that there were people who did not believe: "I was unable to believe that there were really impious people who had no faith. I believed that they were actually speaking against their own inner convictions when they denied the existence of heaven." After her painful experience, she was convinced of the opposite: "During those very joyful days of the Easter season, Jesus made me feel that there were really souls who have no faith"23

Submerged in the most profound darkness, Thérèse did not stop loving the One in whom she trusted. She fought the fight of faith while living in the darkness of unbelievers. This drama made her understand that God wanted her lovingly to offer her own sufferings for unbelievers, to eat with them the bread of affliction, and to sit with them at the table of sinners.24

Many have testified eloquently to conversions to the faith after reading what Thérèse went through. They have discovered in her writing the true face of God. Her words were a beacon as they searched for God in the darkness and amidst temptations to unbelief. Her message has proven its timeliness for those who are estranged, who disbelieve, or who are indifferent.

 - 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 Monday, October 9, 2017 at 06:40PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

"St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of Personal Wholeness" - October 7, 2017


Therese Martin in February 1886, aged thirteen

Saint Therese of Lisieux,
Doctor of Personal Wholeness


23. Thérèse of Lisieux, like anyone else, was subject to the human condition. From a psychological viewpoint, [we can say that] she underwent a liberating process that led her both to accept herself, and also maturely to accept her own limitations.

The internal tensions, spiritual wounds, and all sort of other influences at work in our world make it hard for people to become fully persons. Thérèse of Lisieux, too, was shaped by her family, social, and religious environment with its limitations and imperfections. She learned to accept them, and, in doing so, she liberated herself from them to become, with God's grace, a free person: one who discovered the faithful and merciful God of Jesus Christ. Therese teaches us to profit from everything so that we may grow and mature, both as human beings and as Christians.

24. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face struggled to overcome all that hindered her from being herself. On the way to human maturity, she experienced trauma at the death of her mother. It deeply affected her.17 Her love for God, and friendship with him, awakened in her a liberating process that enabled her to use all these influences to achieve personal wholeness.

Her fourth through fourteenth years were a painful period in her life. She had problems in school where she felt some were antagonistic toward her. Then her sister and second, mother, Pauline, entered Carmel. As a result of this separation, she became seriously ill. It was a psychosomatic illness. Later on she was tormented by scruples.18

All these sufferings were due to her hypersensitivity: "When I began to cheer up, I'd begin to cry again for having cried."19 She lived trapped in a vicious circle, not knowing how to escape.

It was not until Christmas Eve, 1886, that she was healed of her hypersensitivity and began to walk in the way of love and of surrender to Jesus. From this time on, she was free of those interior bonds, able fully to enjoy life and to take pleasure in studies, in contacts with others, in nature and travel, and other good things.

25. Family and social problems torment many men and women today and cause them anguish and anxiety about the future. Thérèse of Lisieux shows them how to welcome into their lives the love of God and love for others and, by doing so, turn to their advantage the fear caused by the uncertainties of the day. Knowledge of a God who is a merciful Father and who surrounds all of us with his love and providence brings us peace and joy. Thérèse presents to a world sick with fear and anguish the therapy of love of God and confidence in him and of service and commitment to others. She has discovered the profound truth that a merciful God wants to give himself fully to all those who open themselves to him, and she has passed that truth on to us.

 - 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 Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:48PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint