A Welcome Oasis


We look around for some solid place to stand. We have a hard time finding one.

But of some things we can be sure:

St. Therese of Lisieux died 121 years ago yesterday. There is absolutely no chance that she ever got drunk in high school. Or that she ever falsely accused someone of getting drunk in high school.

There is no chance that St. Therese ever promoted to a higher position a miscreant who belonged in jail. Or that she ever had political motives in accusing a superior of a cover-up.

St. Therese certainly never turned a deaf ear to someone crying out for help. There is no doubt whatsoever that she kept the confidences entrusted to her; she never leaked anything to the press.

She never had worldly ambitions that blinded her to right and wrong. She never moralized at the expense of human sympathy. She never hedged her bets and waited for the next news cycle, in the hopes that her difficulties would drop off the radar, so she could pretend they didn’t exist.

She never got grandiose. She never got belligerent. She never got overly technical. She never cared about anything, except honestly loving Jesus and the people around her.

She wasn’t born perfect. But she preserved the purity of her heart from childhood to death. She had a powerful, precise, inquiring mind. She was a Little Flower with the courage to stride out alone into the dark night of the soul. She believed, through the bitterest physical and spiritual sufferings.

And she is real. She lived in rural France, died at age 24 of tuberculosis, and went to heaven. She is no plaster statue. Her glorified soul offers us a bona fide spiritual oasis.

We need one. We might doubt whether Lord Jesus will find any faith on earth when He comes. But when we think about St. Therese: we can hope that, indeed, He will. A lot of faith–hidden in millions and millions and millions of little corners.

Click here to read Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter proclaiming St. Therese a Doctor of the Universal Church


Heart of the Corpus Christi


We don’t keep her Memorial this year, since it falls on Sunday. But we can’t pass over the 120th anniversary of the Little Flower’s death in silence.

st__therese_of_lisieuxO my Jesus! what is your answer to all my follies? Is there a soul more little, more powerless than mine? …I opened the Epistles of St Paul to find some kind of answer. Chapters 12 and 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians fell under my eyes…

The Church is composed of different members, and the eye cannot be the hand at one and the same time…

I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and most noble of all could not be lacking to it, and so I understood that the Church had a Heart… I understood it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood…

Yes, I have found my place in the Church and it is You, O my God, who have given me this place; in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be Love…

Why speak of a delirious joy? No, this expression is not exact, for it was rather the calm and serene peace of the navigator perceiving the beacon which must lead him to the port. O luminous Beacon of love, I know how to reach You, I have found the secret of possessing Your flame.



Amoris  for Thérèse

st__therese_of_lisieuxSince we keep the 119th anniversary of the death of the Little Flower, and she found the mystery of her vocation by reading chapters twelve and thirteen of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, let’s reflect on a couple paragraphs of our Holy Father’s extended commentary on those chapters.

(His commentary is found in chapter 4 of Amoris Laetitia.)

92.  …Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like…

100.  To be open to a genuine encounter with others, “a kind look” is essential. This is incompatible with a negative attitude that readily points out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking one’s own. A kind look helps us to see beyond our own limitations, to be patient and to cooperate with others, despite our differences. Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. In this way, it grows ever stronger, for without a sense of belonging we cannot sustain a commitment to others; we end up seeking our convenience alone and life in common becomes impossible. Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. Consequently, there is no room for the gentleness of love and its expression. Those who love are capable of speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement. These were the words that Jesus himself spoke: “Take heart, my son!” “Great is your faith!” “Arise!” “Go in peace” “Be not afraid”  These are not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn. In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our way of speaking to one another.

God Providing

Francis Xavier Therese stained glass

“I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they should collapse.” Matthew 15:32

Reading the holy gospel gives us an insight into the Heart of Christ, which in turn gives us an insight into the eternal will of the Almighty Father.

Christ looks at us, and He sees halt and lame individuals, blind and dumb. Perpetually in danger of collapses. Always a split second away from choosing to become the ‘loser version’ of ourselves.

Our Creator made us to succeed at kindness. But we teeter at the brink of being mean all the time. He made us to bear witness to the truth, discretely and courageously. We can lie, though, and quail, and blab, at a moment’s notice. He made us to love selflessly, with chaste self-control. But: dissipation of our affections in a thousand fruitless directions–we lurch that way all the time.

seven swansIn His Sacred Heart, as we read, the Lord does not condemn. He does not exult Himself over our pathetic weaknesses. To the contrary, He longs only for our welfare, does not pause to measure our failures–He acts instead for our well-being in the most minute details of life.

He fed 5,000 with how many loaves? Five, with two fish. This time, with all the newly healed halt and lame people, He Himself initiated the business of feeding them. He had seven loaves. As many as the days of the work of creation, as many as the sacraments He gave to His Church. As many as the swans a-swimming, as many as the gifts the Holy Spirit gives. Seven loaves to restore the strength of 4,000 men, with their women and children. Seven baskets gathered up afterwards.

The Heart of God longs to provide what we need. He provides grace, invisible and supernatural and everlasting. And He provides all the attendant material things that we need along with it, while we are yet pilgrims on this earth.

St. Francis Xavier lived and died to share the grace of Jesus Christ with people who had never heard of Him. He died 462 years ago today, after spending himself for the good of others’ souls and bodies. He is one of the two heavenly patrons of the evangelical enterprise. The other, of course, is: Therese of Lisieux.

Because we trust altogether in the will of God to provide us with what we need, we can share the grace and the food.

Submission & Mt. Carmel

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Third time in a month we have read the same gospel passage at Mass. We read it on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, two Sundays ago, and now, again, today. Just as well. We could read this passage every day.

Jesus reveals the Father. He reveals the Father to the simple and humble-hearted. In other words, He reveals the Father to contemplatives, like Elijah, and the Blessed Mother, and St. Therese, and all the son and daughters of Mt. Carmel.

The Father, Almighty God, the Source of all–not easy to know, not easy to see. Impossible, actually. But Jesus reveals the heavenly Father’s face, the inscrutable divine face. The Son of Mary reveals the inaccessible mystery.

In our reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord reproves the tool that forgets that it’s in someone’s hand. “Will the axe boast against him who hews with it? Or the saw boast against the one who wields it?” (Isaiah 10:15) In His human nature, the Son reveals, above all, submission to the will of the Father. What any child knows: I find myself on earth because of a greater power and mind, creator of all this beauty. What can I do other than take it in, and try to obey His grand design as best I can?

Click HERE for a two-year-old homily on Isaiah 10, involving St. Ignatius Loyola and Mother Teresa.

Invitation to Advent

The Church spends the four weeks before Christmas neither shopping nor clinking champagne glasses.  She waits for God to come.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of Lisieux professed her Carmelite vows on September 8, 1890.  She received her veil on September 24.

As it happened, on October 1, her cousin Jeanne married a young doctor.

The new nun Therese must have received an engraved invitation to the wedding in the mail at the convent. Of course she could not attend, since she had now entered the cloister.

Therese recounts in her autobiography how the coincidence–her profession of vows and her cousin’s wedding–moved her to amuse herself by composing her own wedding invitation. (Of course, no one saw this invitation until St. Therese’s autobiography was published after her death.)


Letter of Invitation to the Wedding of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, and the Most Glorious Virgin Mary, Queen of the Heavenly Court, announce to you the Spiritual Espousals of Their August Son, Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords, with little Therese Martin…

Monsieur Louis Martin…and Madame Martin…wish to have you take part in the Marriage of their Daughter Therese…

Being unable to invite you to the Nuptial Blessing which was given on Mount Carmel, September 8, 1890, (the heavenly court alone was admitted), you are nevertheless asked to be present at the Return from the Wedding which will take place Tomorrow, the Day of Eternity, on which day Jesus, Son of God, will come on the Clouds of Heaven in the splendor of His Majesty, to judge the Living and the Dead.

The hour being as yet uncertain, you are invited to hold yourself in readiness and to watch.

November Pilgrimage of St. Therese

st__therese_of_lisieuxSt. Therese of Lisieux is a Doctor of the Church, which means she is a pre-eminent teacher of Christian wisdom. When her death was imminent, her superior ordered her to write an autobiography. Story of A Soul contains her sublime doctrine, applied to herself.

The book recounts that, shortly before Therese entered the convent, she went on pilgrimage to Rome. She went with the Bishop of her diocese, her father, her sister, and other Catholics from her part of France. She was not quite fifteen years old. On November 4, 1887, they departed by train from Paris. They visited Assisi and other towns in Italy. On November 20, they went to the Vatican to see the Pope.

Is this, dear friends, an uncanny coincidence? Your humble servant and his 35 fellow pilgrims will be going to see the Pope on almost the exact same day! (God willing, we will see Pope Benedict next Wednesday, November 19.)

We do not believe in coincidences. St. Therese is watching over us. This is part of a Plan.

Can we hope that the Holy Doctor Therese has special graces for us pilgrims when we follow in her footsteps AT THE EXACT SAME TIME OF YEAR?

We can hope for this. And you, dear reader, can hope for a share of these graces, no matter where you may be next week. The Preacher and Big Daddy team intends–with the help of Almighty God–to bring the pilgrimage to your computer screen.

If all goes as planned (which is, as we know, a very big IF), we will be blogging from Assisi and Rome. We have brought a trusty photographer on-board for this ambitious project.

Our first stop on pilgrimage will be the ancient hamlet of the Troubadour of Christ, in the heart of the province of Umbria. Did you know that there is a Litany of St. Francis? We will pray it as we make our way to Assisi to visit the tomb of the most beloved saint of all time, after our Lady. May he intercede for us, along with St. Therese. May heaven smile upon all of us!