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The Little Known St Therese Header

 

On October 1 the liturgy of the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, “the greatest saint of modern times,” in the words of Pope Saint Pius X. The charm of her “Little Way,” with all its sweetness and mercy, admirably harmonizes with the traits of a genuine warrior, “I would die in a battlefield, arms in hand,” she once stated.1

 

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Her soul had infinite aspirations: she wanted to be a warrior, priest, apostle, doctor of the Church and martyr; she felt the courage of a crusader, of a Papal Zouave; she wanted to die in the battlefield defending the Church; she wanted to preach the Gospel to the four continents and to the remotest islands.  “‘Jesus, Jesus’—she would say—‘if I were to write all my desires, I would have to borrow Thy book of life; I wanted to have achieved all these deeds for Thee . . . .’”2

 

St ThereseAn Admirer of Saint Joan of Arc

This warrior aspect of Saint Thérèse’s soul is dominant in her moral profile. Yet, even those who love her most, tend to forget this trait.

“In my childhood, I dreamed of combating in the battlefield. When I began to learn the history of France, I was enchanted with the deeds of Joan of Arc; I felt in my heart a desire and courage to imitate them.”3 

Saint Thérèse gradually became increasingly aware of the profound similarities between her life and that of the Virgin of Donrémy. Thus, on January 21, 1894, the 101st anniversary of the martyrdom of the unfortunate King Louis XVI, she wrote a theater play titled, The Mission of Joan of Arc.

The following year, as Pope Leo XIII declared her “Venerable,” and France celebrated it’s holy martyr and warrior, Saint Thérèse wrote the play, Joan of Arc Fulfills Her Mission, which the whole religious community staged. Saint Thérèse played the role of Joan of Arc.

The play featured the conquest of Orleans, the coronation of King Charles VII, but above all Saint Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake, which to Saint Thérèse meant the apex of the achievement of the heroine’s mission.

Saint Thérèse signed her Canticle to obtain the canonization of Saint Joan of Arc as “A French soldier, defender of the Church and admirer of Joan of Arc.”

Saint Joan, the Virgin of Orleans, and Saint Thérèse, the Virgin of Lisieux, are two models of militant Catholic combatants against the enemies of the Church and of Christian Civilization. Two great saints, though leading such different lives—one a strictly military life and the other a contemplative one—nonetheless have profound affinities with each other.

Saint Thérèse did not live to see Saint Joan’s canonization, and she was far from imagining that, on May 18, 1925, Pope Pius XI would present her, Saint Thérèse, to the Catholic world as “a new Joan of Arc”; and that during the Second World War, Pope Pius XII would declare her, like the Virgin of Orleans, “secondary patron of all France!”

 

A Crusader Soul; Apparitions; the Combatant

The idea of fight constantly fed the strong soul of the saint of the “Shower of Roses.”

“I went to sleep for a few moments during prayer,” she would tell Mother Agnes. “I dreamt there were not enough soldiers for a war against the Prussians. You said: We need to send Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. I answered that I agreed, but that I would prefer to fight at a holy war. But finally I went all the same.

“Oh no, I would not fear going to war. With what joy, for example, at the time of the Crusades, I would have gone to combat heretics. Yes! I would not have been afraid to be shot; I would not have feared the fire!4 

“When I think I’m dying in bed! I would want to die in an arena!”5 

The same combative spirit animated her in the struggles of the spiritual life: “Sanctity! We need to conquer it at the tip of the sword . . . we need to fight!”6 

Such is the mettle of this extremely active and energetic warrior soul, according to the testimonies of those who knew her: “Under a suave and gracious aspect [she] revealed at every instant, in her actions, a strong character and a manly soul; she would not be discouraged in her dedication to the interests of the Church.”7 

“This is a manly soul, a great man,” Pope Pius XI later said. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus thus followed the advice of the great Saint Thérèse of Avila to her daughters: “I want you not to be women in anything, but equal to strong men in everything!”8  

St Therese as a nunThus wrote Cardinal Vico about the Virgin of Lisieux, “Thérèse’s virtue imposes itself with incredible majesty: the child becomes a hero; a virgin with her hands full of flowers causes astonishment with her manly courage.”9 

A handwriting analysis of Saint Thérèse’s Act of Profession gives this admirable testimony: “An iron-clad resolution, a great will to fight, an indomitable energy are expressed here. These traits show at the same time the fright of a child and the decisiveness of a warrior.”10 

In 1914, when the First World War breaks out, Saint Thérèse appears some forty times in various battlefields, at times holding a cross in her hand, at times a saber! The soldiers see her; she speaks to them matter-of-factly, resolves their doubts, overcomes their temptations and calms their fears. She protects, consoles and converts them.

French soldiers would invoke her as “my little sister of the trenches,” “my war patroness,” “the shield of soldiers,” “the angel of battles” and “my dear little Captain.” A soldier wrote, “In fact, that gentle Saint will be the great heroine of this war.” Another commented, “I think of her when the cannon thunders with great roar.”

Countless were the artillery pieces and planes named after Sister Thérèse; whole regiments were consecrated to her. Countless relics of the saint that miraculously stopped rifle bullets like real shields, saving the lives of the soldiers who carried them, are in her convent of Lisieux, a testimony to the great prodigies of the one who, in fact, “died with arms in her hand.”11

 

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NOTES:
1. Poésies de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, “Mes armes,” March 25, 1897, Office Central de Lisieux, 1951.
2. Manuscrits Autobiographiques, dedicated to Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart, Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, folio 4 t’.
3. Lettres de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, Letter to Father Belliere, Office Central de Lisieux, 1948.
4. Carnet Jaune, 4.8.6 in Demiers entretiens, Éditions du Centenaire, Desclée de Brouwer ­Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1971.
5. Summarium of the Process of Beatification and Canonization 1, testimony of Celine, 2753.
6. Correspondance Générale, Éditions du Cerf-Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1972, t. I (1877–1890), Letter (no. 89) Celine, April 26, 1889; Letter to Leonie, May 20, 1894.
7. Summarium of the Process of Beatification and Canonization 1, testimony of Mother Agnes, 706, and of Mother Therese of Saint Augustine, 1072.
8. Lettres de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, as quoted by Saint Therese of Avila in a letter to Father Rouland, November 10, 1896, Office Central de Lisieux, 1948.
9. L’Esprit de Ia Bienheureuse Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus d’après ses écrits et des témoins occulaires de sa vie. Office Central de Lisieux, 1924, Preface, at VIII.
10. Father François de Sainte-Marie, OCDP, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, vol. II, 53.
11. Cf. Interventions de Sr. Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus pendant la guerre, Pluie de Roses, Lisieux, 1920; and Ch. Gabriel Sarraute, Un soldat français: sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, Imprimerie Morière, 1970.


 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 16, 2020

Today God invites you to do good; do it therefore today. Tom...

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July 16

 

Today God invites you to do good;
do it therefore today.
Tomorrow you may not have time, or
God may no longer call you to do it.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in t...

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be traced back to the hermits living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the Old Testament. This ancient community prayed for the advent of the Virgin-Mother through whom salvation was promised to mankind. In Hebrew, “Carmel” means “garden”. In ancient times this mountain was celebrated for its lush, verdant, and flowery beauty.

It was also on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah prayed to God for rain during a terrible drought afflicting Israel for its sins and idolatry of Baal. The first sign that his prayer was answered was a tiny cloud that appeared in the sky out over the Mediterranean, the precursor of a great rainfall.

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. Praying thus became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without its stains.

In the twelfth century, St. Berthold, a Frenchman, pilgrim or crusader, came to Mount Carmel seeking to visit Elijah’s cave, and ended by founding a community imbued with the Marian spirit of the holy prophet and the hermits of old.

St. Brocard, successor of St. Berthold, set their way of life to a Rule, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. From the time of St. Brocard, these monks were known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel cannot be mentioned without also mentioning her brown scapular. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite monk, and then General of the Carmelite Order. On one arm she held the Child Jesus and on the other a brown garment called a scapular, to be draped over the front and back of a person. As she showed him this garment she said, “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

This privilege is extended to lay persons who, wishing to participate in this promise, choose to be enrolled in a small version of the scapular by an officiating priest or deacon.

This practice must not be understood superstitiously or “magically”, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are required for salvation.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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