I discovered that her sentimental spirituality had a purpose. It was a reminder of the gospel lesson that all of us, if we were to enter the kingdom, had to become as little children. I also learned that this little flower was no shrinking violet. She was tough, tougher than I had ever thought it necessary to be in my own feeble attempts at being a Christian. Then I learned that she had a vocation to pray for priests, and I said, “Therese, I know you pray for priests. I am only an Anglican priest, and not a full member of your family, but I hope you will pray for me too as I embark on this pilgrimage.”
The pilgrimage took me through the most historic and wonderful parts of France and Italy, and then through Greece to the Holy Lands. Along the way I stayed in Benedictine monasteries and got into the rhythm of prayer and the life of the monks with whom I stayed. All summer I also felt the presence and prayers of the little saint of Lisieux.
Since then, my life’s pilgrimage has taken me places I never imagined. Eight years after my encounter in Lisieux I left the Anglican ministry to become a Catholic. Twelve years after that I was ordained as a Catholic priest. I am convinced that the prayer I said all those years ago in Lisieux was answered more amazingly than I ever could have imagined. Who would have guessed that her prayers would not only help me to make my way into the Catholic Church, but that I (a married man with four children) would also be able to be ordained as a Catholic priest.
My interest in Therese led me to write a book called St Benedict and St Therese—the Little Rule and the Little Way. The book has become a favorite among followers of both St Benedict and St Therese, and with the election of a pope called Benedict there is an upsurge of interest in both St Benedict and St Therese. This interest continues to grow because both saints have so much to say to ordinary people who are struggling to live lives of holiness and service to God.