Saturday, October 01, 2005

St. Therese of Lisieux

Today we celebrate St. Therese who John Paul II proclaimed a doctor of the Church on World Mission Sunday, October 19, 1997.

In her writings we find the ultimate in simple faith. Her autobiography, Story of a Soul has sold millions of copies in many different languages.

During her life as a nun she suffered greatly due to illness. She did not however, mention to anyone that she was suffering. When her illness became known, she continued to suffer patiently out of love for God. Her illness worsened until her death on September 30, 1897 at the young age of 24.

"...thus began, as was her desire, a new phase of apostolic presence on behalf of souls in the Communion of Saints, in order to shower a rain of roses upon the world." The Life of Saint Therese, Vatican News Services.
It is said that those who have a particular devotion to St. Therese will receive a bouquet of roses in response to asking St. Therese for a favour or intention. I must admit that it has happened to me on several occasions when I have turned to her for help or support. Here follows is the first time that I received a bouquet from her. This was also the first time, through a brother seminarian, that I came to really know St. Therese.

On this very day (October 1), during one of my two years in the seminary (mid 1990's), a brother seminarian and I were discussing St. Therese and her life. He had a particularly strong devotion to St. Therese as he shared in her charism of mystical simplicity and humility. We spent the afternoon sharing our experiences with our favourite saints, him St. Therese who is a Carmelite, and I St. John of the Cross who is also a Carmelite. It was a blessed time.

At the end of the afternoon, we went down to pray the Divine Office with the rest of the community. After Evening Prayer we went to the dining room for supper.

During the meal, my brother and I sat together to continue our conversations. Sometime during the meal, the entire dining room (it was quite large) filled with the scent of roses! The scent was very strong, as though someone had placed a bouquet directly under everyone's nose. Our brother seminarians stopped their eating and looked around to see where the scent was coming from. After a few moments everyone pretty much got back to their meals. My brother seminarian and I had already figured out where the scent had came from, it was a gift to all us from St. Therese on her feast day!

Later on, he and I offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God and St. Therese for that gift of love and affirmation. For me, it reinforced in me the need to learn more about the life of St. Therese and her particular way of living the Journey with the Lord.

Her Way became very important to me about four years back. I was in two consecutive car accidents about six months apart. In one I was rear-ended and the other one I was broadsided by someone on a cell-phone who ran a red. Both accidents left me racked and in extreme pain. I was just starting to heal from the first when the second happened.

Here I came face to face with living in extreme pain 24/7. This pain was extreme during the extensive massage sessions and physiotherapy sessions. The massage went on for over 18 months total and the physiotherapy went on for 6 weeks straight about half way through that 18 month period.

I had two options: get bitter and cranky and share that with those around me, or decide to share that suffering with Jesus at the Cross and making the suffering redemptive. This is where St. Therese came in. She was with me through the whole ordeal, encouraging me and supporting me during the most painful of times.

St. Therese helped me stay focused on Jesus hanging on the Cross, and she coached me on how to offer my suffering for specific needs and intentions of those around me and sometimes names of strangers that she shared with me. Ultimately, she showed me how she was very thankful for the suffering in her life. It was her offering of love to Him and it was an offering of love for her sisters in the convent as well as the many other intentions the Lord brought to her.

Indeed, I did learn that lesson. Before entering the doctor's office for my hour of very painful massage therapy, I would offer a prayer to Jesus giving Him what I was about to go through. During the tough times I would turn to a crucifix and offer that suffering and pray for support to make it through the pain.

I was blessed to essentially stay bitter free! :*) It took time to heal, and also to forgive the drivers in both incidents, but I managed with the grace of God to do so. It took time to let go of the anger and rage that at times brewed within me too. It took a constant vigilance to keep myself focused on Jesus.

Thanks be to God for those experiences. Thanks be to God for the gift of St. Therese who was there to teach me about how to suffer for the glory of God. Thanks Jesus for gifting me with such a small share in your Passion!

Pax vobis,


The Vatican's press release on the life of St. Therese can be found here.
An excellent article by Fr. John Hardon on the life of St. Therese can be found here.

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