Feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin – popularly known as ‘The Little Flower’ – was born in Alençon, northern France, in 1873, one of nine children born to Saints Louis and Zélie Martin. While still young (at the age of 15), and despite opposition, she entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Lisieux. By word and example she taught the novices the virtues of humility. Following a difficult illness (tuberculosis) she died on September 30, 1897. Thérèse was canonized in 1925 with successive popes referring to her as ‘the greatest saint of modern times’. She became famous for her ‘Little Way’ which is found in her remaining letters and her biography. She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997. She is co-patroness of the Missions and secondary patron of France.
Isaiah 66:10-14 or 1John 4:7-16; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:25-30 or Matthew 18:1-4
In the reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord is telling Jerusalem and its inhabitants that they are to be comforted as a child is looked after by its mother. To Jerusalem he will send peace flowing like a river.
Our alternative reading from the first letter of St John tells us that we must love one another because God loves us. Not alone will God love us, but he will also live in us. Despite the poor health and trials Thérèse suffered in the final years of her life, she continued to love and trust in God and this was lived out in how she loved her sisters in Community, even when their odd habits and eccentricities caused her distraction. She was devoted to Christ whose life, death and resurrection were the embodiment of God’s incredible love for us and which inspired Thérèse.
Both gospels which can be used today carry the same theme – that of becoming like little children in how we trust God. In one we see Jesus praising God for having revealed his truth to mere children, and in the other he tells us to become like a little child for they are the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Often the most learned in the world miss God’s message because they want to analyse and rationalise it. However, those who look at it with a child’s mind, as did St Thérèse, will find the true meaning in its hidden depths. At times, Thérèse’s writings are very much in line with those of a child and yet the message is very simple but also profound, demonstrating that she had grasped the message of God which she tried to live that out in her own short life.