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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 

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

 

Novena Card of St Therese Banner

  

 



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 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

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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