Living Love, Getting to Holy with the Help of St. Thérèse

From Thérèse of Lisieux herself, from today’s prayer of the Church:

When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which Saint Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

This is why Pope Francis talks about solidarity so very often. This is the Body of Christ we are members of as God’s people in the Church! We are united to one another and and cannot act like we are isolated when our call is union. Union with Him — in the life of the Trinity — is our strength.

This is the solidarity I talked with Fr. Benedict Kiely, a Vermont priest who wants to help our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, about on National Review Online here.

Many have great love for and devotion to St. Thérèse because her deep love for Jesus is quite simple, albeit radical. What does it mean to have a mission of love, and in a time when that word is can be so misused? Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire walks through the practical implications:

Our mission is to prepare ourselves to receive Christ on his terms and in accord with his purposes. It is in our willingness to do this that his holiness is accomplished in us. Because this is one of the great truths of the spiritual life, we discover that one does not have to journey into the desert as a hermit to know the challenges of asceticism. One does not have to journey to lands hostile to the Faith and suffer martyrdom to know what it means to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Opportunities to know and serve the Lord will find us, wherever we are, and when they do, will we rise to the occasion seek to serve the Lord?

Saint Thérèse’s personal appropriation of her spiritual way culminated in the manner in which she experienced suffering and death. Beset by physical discomfort, she was overtaken by an intense, spiritual darkness. She accepted these as being opportunities to know the Lord and to grow in faith, hope and love.

What spiritual lesson does the witness of St. Thérèse offer us?

Perhaps we might consider whether too much of our prayer is dedicated to pleading for exemptions from the hard facts and difficult circumstances of life. We tell the Lord what we do not want to face, what we just couldn’t accept, rather than coming to terms with the truth that God delivers and redeems us not from the reality of human existence, but through it. God will not take us anywhere that he didn’t go himself, this much we know from the revelation of Christ. St. Thérèse shows us that it is within an embrace of the reality of our existence that the Lord reveals himself and teaches us his truth.

May St. Thérèse intercede for us and help us to be attentive to the presence of Christ in all the experiences of life.

To say “my vocation is love” would be trite if it did not bring us into a deeper, radical, daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reflection on love, transformed by the love of the Savior who died for us.

Some Thérèse links from Word on Fire.

An interview with my friend Fleur Nabert about her friendship with the “Little Flower.”

Fleur is far from alone. As Pope Benedict XVI put during an audience in 2011:

“Little Thérèse” has never stopped helping the simplest souls, the little, the poor and the suffering who pray to her.

Read all of that audience, from a man who clearly loves her.

Just a bit more from our pope emeritus:

Thérèse died on the evening of 30 September 1897, saying the simple words, “My God, I love you!”, looking at the Crucifix she held tightly in her hands. These last words of the Saint are the key to her whole doctrine, to her interpretation of the Gospel the act of love, expressed in her last breath was as it were the continuous breathing of her soul, the beating of her heart. The simple words “Jesus I love you”, are at the heart of all her writings. The act of love for Jesus immersed her in the Most Holy Trinity. She wrote: “Ah, you know, Divine Jesus I love you / The spirit of Love enflames me with his fire, / It is in loving you that I attract the Father” (P 17/2).
Dear friends, we too, with St Thérèse of the Child Jesus must be able to repeat to the Lord every day that we want to live of love for him and for others, to learn at the school of the saints to love authentically and totally. Thérèse is one of the “little” ones of the Gospel who let themselves be led by God to the depths of his Mystery.

Here is Saint John Paul II on the Science of Divine Love her life shows us. “Thérèse’s teaching expresses with coherence and harmonious unity the dogmas of the Christian faith as a doctrine of truth and an experience of life,” he wrote.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, pray for us, that we might see His Holy Face, that we might bring others to Him, showing them His great love every moment of our lives.

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