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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in St. Therese (6)

125 years ago with St. Therese: her letter for Celine's 25th birthday, April 28, 1894

 Celine, left, with Marie Guerin at La Musse in the summer of 1894. Photo courtesy of the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

 In 1894, Celine was living with her father in a small house on rue Labbey, across a little alley from the home of her uncle, Isidore Guerin.  Leonie was making her second attempt at the Visitation at Caen, and Celine's other three sisters, Marie, Pauline, and Therese, were nuns at the Lisieux Carmel.  Celine usually visited them once a week.  But the Carmelites were not allowed to write letters to a person they had seen that week in the speakroom. So, as her birthday approached, Celine gave up the visit in order to receive a birthday letter from each sister.  Every year Therese wrote a special letter.

 Therese was 21 in 1894.  She wrote to Celine on Thursday, April 26, for Celine's birthday on Saturday, April 28: her letter accompanies a poem she had written for the occasion [more on that tomorrow]. She speaks of Celine's role as the caregiver for their sick father, who would die on July 29:  "You are now the visible angel of him who will soon go to be united to the angels of the heaveniy city!"  Then she gives a short, rich, and powerful commentary on the gospel story in which Jesus, after he rose from the dead, found that the disciples had "worked hard all night long and caught nothing," and filled the basket with so much fish it almost broke the nets.   Since in 1894 Easter Sunday fell on March 25, Therese could have meditated on this story for a month already.  Please read Therese's birthday letter to Celine on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.  

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

With St. Therese and the Carmelites of Lisieux, draw a "vehicle by which to go to the crib." December 20, 2014

In the time of St. Therese, eight days before Christmas the Carmelites "drew by lot" little "tickets" (small bits of paper).  On each ticket was written the vehicle by which the nun who drew it would "go to the crib" of the newborn Jesus.  The vehicles include a boat, a wheelbarrow, an automobile, an elevator, and more.  Please see the tickets drawn by the Lisieux Carmelites and choose one for yourself. 

St. Therese sent a white rose to Pope Francis on September 8, 2013. Why that date?


On September 26, 2013,  the Vatican Insider reported that on Sunday, September 8, 2013, the day after the prayer vigil for peace in the world, Pope Francis received a rose from St. Therese of Lisieux.  The Pope authorized the Archbishop of Ancona and Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli, to disclose this news at a press conference in Pedaso, in the region of Marche, Italy, at which Archbishop Menichelli presented  a book by theologian and writer Gianni Gennari entitled Teresa di Lisieux. Il fascino della santità. I segreti di una dottrina ritrovata (Thérèse of Lisieux. The fascination of sainthood. Secrets of a rediscovered doctrine) and published by Lindau. We now know that this was the book Pope Francis took with him when he flew to Brazil last July.

As the Pope was walking through the Vatican gardens, a worker presented him with a white rose.  Archbishop Menichelli said: 

“The Pope told me he received the freshly-picked white rose out of the blue from a gardener as he was taking a stroll in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday 8 September.  The Pope sees this flower as a “sign”, a “message” from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, whom he had turned to in a moment of worry the day before.”

At the prayer vigil for peace the evening before, the joyful mysteries of the rosary were recited, and, after each decade, a stanza of Therese's poem "Why I Love You, O Mary" (related to the joyful mystery that had just been prayed) was read.  In Vatican Insider Andrea Tornielli notes  that the Pope did not tell the Archbishop that the white rose had any connection to the prayer vigil for peace in Syria, but, of course, the international situation must have been a great anxiety on the day of the prayer vigil.

The white rose was linked to Pope Francis while he was still Cardinal Bergoglio.  In the book, Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti (originally published in 2010 under the title "El Jesuita" ("The Jesuit") and now available in English),  then-Cardinal Bergoglio revealed that St. Therese of Lisieux was his favorite saint and that he turns to her in time of need.  He kept a photo of her on his library shelf with a vase of white roses in front of it. "When I have a problem I ask the saint, not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it; almost always, I receive a rose as sign."  See more about Pope Francis, St. Therese, and the rose.

Although the famous line "After my death I will let fall a shower of roses" has been widely publicized in connection with St. Therese, so that most people see the rose as a sign of the favors she has obtained for humanity from God, in Therese's lifetime she identified herself with the rose and longed to be "unpetalled" to give glory to God.  See more about this symbolism, read Therese's  poem "The unpetalled rose," and listen to a recording of her cousin, Jeanne Guerin, singing the poem in French.

Why did St. Therese send this rose to Pope Francis on September 8?

Of course, St. Therese wanted to console the Pope as he and the world were praying for peace. On September 8, 1890, she wrote in her "Profession letter," which she carried over her heart as she made her vows:

"May the things of earth never be able to trouble my soul, and may nothing disturb my peace.  Jesus, I ask You for nothing but peace, and also love, infinite love without any limits other than Yourself, love which is no longer I but You, my Jesus." 

(The Prayers of Saint Therese of Lisieux, tr. Aletheia Kane, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, 1996, p. 38).

But the choice of the date September 8, which was a day of unique graces for Therese, may have a deeper personal significance for St. Therese's relationship with Pope Francis himself.  First, September 8 is the feast of the Birth of Mary and the date of Therese's profession of vows in 1890.  (See a story with photos here).

Fr. Adolphe Roulland, MEP. Photo: Paris Foreign Missions Society

Second, in 1896 Therese learned for the first time of a great grace she received on that date.  On November 1, 1896 she wrote to her spiritual brother, the newly ordained priest Father Adolphe Roulland of the Foreign Missions Society in Paris, then serving as a missionary in China:

Allow me to confide a secret to you that was just revealed to me by the sheet of paper on which are written the memorable dates of your life.

On September 8, 1890, your missionary vocation was saved by Mary, Queen of Apostles and Martyrs; on that same day, a little Carmelite became the spouse of the King of heaven. Bidding an everlasting adieu to the world, she had one goal, to save souls, especially the souls of apostles. From Jesus, her divine Spouse, she asked particularly for an apostolic soul; unable to be a priest, she wanted that in her place a priest may receive the graces of the Lord, that he have the same aspirations, the same desires as herself . . . .

Brother, you know the unworthy Carmelite who offered this prayer. Do you not think, as I do, that our union confirmed on the day of your priestly ordination began on September 8? . . . I believed I would meet only in heaven the apostle, the brother whom I had asked from Jesus; but this Beloved Saviour, raising a little the mysterious veil that hides the secrets of eternity, has seen fit to give me in this exile the consolation of knowing the brother of my soul, of working with him for the salvation of poor infidels.

Oh! how great is my gratitude when I consider the kind attention of Jesus!. . . What is He reserving for us in heaven if here below His love dispenses surprises so delightful?

More than ever, I understand that the smallest events of our life are conducted by God; He is the One who makes us desire and who grants our desires . . . .

 Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, 1890-1897, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, 1988), pp. 1014-1015.

Therese writes of Mary's having "saved" the missionary vocation of Adolphe Roulland.  She is referring to a pilgrimage he made to the shrine of Notre Dame de la Delivrande (in English, "Our Lady of Ransom" or "Our Lady of Perpetual Help") in Douvres la Delivrande, Normandy (about an hour's drive from Lisieux) on September 8, 1890.  At the Apostolic Process Father Roulland testified:

"On September 8, 1890, I was having some hesitancy concerning my vocation and entrance into the Major Seminary.  While I was praying in the chapel of Our Lady of Ransom, I suddenly and definitively came to a decision.  I learned later that on the same September 8, 1890, the day of the Servant of God’s Profession, she had asked Our Lord to give her the soul of a priest, and she pointed out the link between these two events.” 

Apostolic Process, p. 2903, cited in Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, p. 1019, footnote 3.  

 Therese was always attuned to dates as a sign of grace.  She had sent Father Roulland the "days of grace" in her life and had asked him to send her the memorable dates of his life, that she might be particularly united to him in prayer and thanksgiving on those anniversaries.  With his letter of September 25-26, 1896, he sent the list, including "Vocation saved by Our Lady of Perpetual Help: September 8, 1890."  It's in response to this list of dates that Therese, on November 1, 1896, wrote the letter quoted above. 

Father Roulland died in 1934, nine years after his "little sister" was canonized.  Now that his mission on earth is complete, might St. Therese have asked God to choose Pope Francis as the priest who now "in her place may receive the graces of the Lord, that he have the same aspirations, the same desires as herself . . . .?"  Does she now call Pope Francis "the brother of my soul?"

"Jesus, Therese, and Our Little Way" by James Martin, S.J.

[T]his French Carmelite nun who gloried in spiritual childhood, and who never published a word in her lifetime, never watched TV, and as far as we know never blogged, has great deal to teach us American adults in a media-saturated culture.

If you missed the article "Jesus, Therese, and Our Little Way," written by Jesuit James Martin for St.  Therese's feast, please enjoy it now.

Posted on Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 06:50PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint
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