Thursday, October 3, 2019

Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, Virgin

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Wonder-worker as is the saint of today, fulfilling her dying prophecy, “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses,” she is her own greatest miracle. Her world-wide popularity, to which is united in most cases a devotion which has reorientated many a life, and in all has been a stimulus and an encouragement, is recognized to be phenomenal. It has been said with respect to doctrinal definitions that the faithful have a passive “infallibility,” whereby their need answers exactly to the definition; the same would seem to be true in the case of devotions and saints; they are given to us when and as they are needed.

In an age which worships visible efficiency which, even in the spiritual sphere, too often demands substantial material results before it will revere and believe, the saint who has won hearts—and souls—as few indeed have done, is no great religious and social reformer nor, in her lifetime, an apostle carrying the truth to the ends of the earth; nor even a preacher upon whose words crowds have hung spellbound, nor a scholar gathering around his rostrum all that was best in the intellectual world of his day; but a girl who was unknown beyond a small circle of relatives and friends. She had received no special educational advantages; she lived her life in a quiet little Norman town to which few travellers found their way. Still a child in years, but mature already in the things of God, she entered the Carmel in the same town, an obscure convent of recent foundation, barren of the historical associations which cluster around many French Carmels. For ten years she lived a life made up for the most part of religious exercises and simple domestic duties; a life, to the average man or woman of the world, colorless and monotonous, in which of necessity talents were wasted and all chance of doing good service to the world forever forfeited. At twenty-four she died of consumption, but over the simple grave accorded to such as she were placed the mysterious words: “I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.”

Shortly before her death, she, Teresa of the Child Jesus, always so humble and simple, had declared, among other startling prophetic sayings, that: All the world would love her. During the last two years of her life, in obedience to her Superiors, she had written in her scanty free time, on poor scraps of paper, an account of her life, and for this, likewise, she foretold a strange success. Today “The Story of a Soul” has been translated into every civilized tongue; the literature which has gathered round the book and its writer would form a library, and Lisieux is one of the great pilgrimage centers of the world.

In her book the young Carmelite explained the theory and practice of her own spiritual life: her “little Way;” the “Way of Spiritual Childhood;” and, when dying, she spoke with a strange solemnity and certainty of the mission awaiting her in the eternal future—to teach her “Way” to souls. Too often described as something new, it is, as two Sovereign Pontiffs have pointed out, but a return to the way of the Gospels. Others have walked the same path to heaven before St. Teresa of Lisieux, but to her it has been given to show it once more to a self-sufficient, sophisticated world, and that in such wise that, to men of good will, it may be a sure and safe highway wherein even the foolish cannot err.

The Way of Spiritual Childhood stresses again that “love,” and not great outward achievement, is the fulfilling of the law; that it is character, not career, which counts; that since for most souls sanctity, if achieved at all, must be achieved in a restricted sphere, the daily round of little duties, little sacrifices, common tasks and trials, all fulfilled and accepted perfectly and for love, generous doing and suffering of the will of God, will provide all that is needful for the highest heroism. Beneath her childlike phrasing the saint has portrayed a life which calls for an unflagging generosity and courage which, united with the humility and confidence of a little child, is heroic indeed. Benedict XV has called her way “the secret of sanctity.”

And because she lived “a little one” she was “pleasing to the Most High.” All the world had loved her; popular acclamation had soon declared her a saint, but the voice which alone can pronounce thereon was not long silent. Her cause was exempted from the years of delay normally required; Pope Benedict XV pronounced the Decree of Heroicity (.pdf; p. 453) of her virtues, and by Pius XI, now happily reigning, she was both beatified and canonized at an interval of but two years, the first beatification and the first canonization of his pontificate. Two years later the Pope declared her the special patroness of all Catholic Foreign Missions in the same rank as St. Francis Xavier.

The following lessons are assigned to the second Nocturn of her office. By special privilege of His Holiness Pius XI her feast is kept in her own convent on September 30, the anniversary of her death. In the Carmelite Order it is celebrated on October 1, and everywhere is transferred to October 3.

Teresia a Jesu Infante, Alensonii in Gallia, honestis parentibus, singulari et assidua erga Deum pietate conspicuis, orta est. Inde a prima ætate, divino Spiritu præventa, religiosam vitam agere cupiebat. Serio autem promisit, se nihil Deo denegaturam, quod ipse ab ea petere videretur: quam promissionem fideliter usque ad mortem servare sategit. Quinto ætatis anno, matre amissa, Dei providentiæ se totam commisit sub vigilanti custodia armantissimi patris, sorumque natu majorum: quibus magistris, Teresia ad currendam perfectionis viam ut gigas exsultavit. Novennis virginibus ex Ordine sancti Benedict Lexoviis excolenda traditur, ibique in rerum divinarum cognitione excellere visa est. Decimo ætatis anno, arcanus et gravis morbus eam diu cruciavit, a quo prout ipsa enerrat, ope Beatissimæ Virginis, quæ eidem subridens apparuit, et quam, sub titulo Dominæ nostræ a Victoria, per novendialia invocare studuit, divinitus fuit liberata. Tunc, angelico fervore repleta, ad sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur, se diligentissime præparare curavit.

Theresa of the Child Jesus was born in Alençon in France. Her parents were estimable people, well known for their piety and their love of God. From her earliest childhood, endowed by a special grace of the Holy Ghost, she yearned to enter the religious life. She promised God with the utmost sincerity that she would deny him nothing he might ask of her. She kept this promise faithfully to the end of her life, although she had to suffer a great deal to keep it. Her mother died when Theresa was but five years old. From then on the child committed herself to the providence of God, under the vigilant care of a most tender father and her elder sisters. Under their teaching Theresa raced as gayly strong as a young giant along the way of perfection. At the age of nine she was sent to school at Lisieux to the Benedictine nuns, where she made remarkable progress in her knowledge of divine things. In her tenth year she was ill for a long time of a serious and mysterious malady. From this, as she herself relateth, she was delivered only by the power of God himself, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appeared to her with a smiling countenance, and to whom under the title of our Lady of Victories, she was constantly making novenas. Filled with angelic fervor she prepared herself at this time with the utmost care to receive Christ in the sacred banquet of her first Holy Communion.

Ut primitus eucharistico pane fuit refecta, insatiabilem cælestis hujus cibi famen haurire visa est: unde velut inspirata, Jesum rogabat, ut omnem mundanam consolationem in amaritudinem sibi verteret. Inde tenerrimo in Christum Dominum et in Ecclesiam amore exæstuans, nihil antiquis habuit, quam Carmelitarum Excalceatorum Ordinem ingredi, ut sui abnegatione, suisque sacrifiis, sacerdotibus, missionariis, totique Ecclesiæ opem afferret, et innumeras animas Jesu Christo lucrifaceret: quod jam morti proxima, apud Deum se facturam pollicita est. Propter ætatis defectum, multas ad religiosam vitam amplectendam nacta est difficultates, quibus tamen incredibili animi fortitudine superatis, quindecim annos nata, Lexoviensem Carmelum feliciter ingressa est. Ibi mirabiles Deus in Teresiæ corde ascensiones disposuit, quæ, Mariæ Virginis vitam absonditam imitata, quasi hortus irriguus, flores omnium vitutum germinavit, præcipue vero eximiæ in Deum et in proximum caritatis.

After being refreshed for the first time with the Eucharistic Bread Theresa seemed to develop an insatiable hunger for the celestial food. Then, as if by inspiration, she asked Jesus to turn all her earthly consolation into bitterness. After that she burned with a most tender love for Christ the Lord and for his Church. More than anything in the world she wanted to enter the Discalced Carmelites, where by self-sacrifice she might assist priests, missionaries and the whole Church, and so gain innumerable souls for Christ Jesus. All this, she promised God would do for her, even when apparently she lay at the point of death. Her extreme youth was an obstacle which hindered her entrance upon the religious life. Even this she overcame by her incredible courage of soul. She entered Carmel at Lisieux happily at the age of fifteen. There God fashioned the heart of Theresa in a marvellous way, teaching her to ascend to him step by step. Imitating the hidden life of the Virgin Mary like a well-watered garden she bore flowers of every virtue, especially an abiding love of God and neighbor.

Quo magis Altissimo placeret, cum in Sacris Scripturis monitum illud legisset: Si quis est parvulus veniat ad me; parvula in spiritu esse voluit, et inde filiali fiducia Deo, tamquam Patri amantissimo, se perpetuo tradidit. Hanc, spiritualis infantiæ viam, secundum Evangelii doctrinam, alios docuit, speciatim novitias, quas ex obedientia ad religiosarum virtutum studium informandas suscepit, atque ita apostolico zelo repleta, mundo, superbia inflato et vanitates diligenti, evangelicæ simplicitatis iter patefecit. Sponsus autem Jesus eam patiendi desiderio, tam in anima, quam in corpore, penitus inflammavit. Insuper Dei caritatem undequaque neglectam animadvertens, summo dolore affecta, duobus ante obitum annis, Dei miserentis amori se victimam obtulit. Tunc, ut ipsa refert, cælestis ignis flamma vulnerata est: unde caritate consumpta, in ecstasim rapta, ferventissime ingeminans: Deus meus, te diligo; viginti quatuor annos nata, die trigesima Septembris, anno millesimo octingentesimo nonagesimo septimo, ad Sponsum evolavit. Quod autem moriens promiserat, se perennem rosarum pluviam in terram demissuram, hoc in cælum recepta, innumeris miraculis reapse adimplevit et in dies adimplet. Quam Pius undecimus, Pontifex maximus, Beatis Virginibus adscriptam, et biennio post, jubilæo maximo recurrente, inter Sanctas relatam, peculiarem omnium Missionum Patronam constituit ac declaravit.

That she might please the most high God to greater degree, when she read in Sacred Scriptures the warning, Whoever is a little one, let him come unto me, she determine to be a little one in spirit. As such she consecrated herself forever with childlike confidence to God, her most loving Father. The way of spiritual childhood, following the teachings of the Gospel, she taught to others, especially to the novices who, training in the pursuit of religious virtues, she undertook in obedience to her superiors. Overflowing with apostolic zeal she pointed out to a world filled with pride and a love of vanities, the simple way of the Gospels. Meanwhile Jesus, her spouse, inflamed her with a desire to suffer both in soul and in body. Moreover, perceiving that the love of God was everywhere rejected, she became filled with a grief and two years before her death, offered herself as a victim of love to the merciful God. She writeth that she was then wounded by a flame of fire from heaven, whereupon she became consumed by love, rapt as it were in ecstasy. Repeating over and over again the fervent words, My God, I love thee, she passed on to her Spouse on the 30th day of September in the year 1897, at the age of twenty-four years. As she was dying she promised that she would let fall upon earth a ceaseless shower of roses. This promise she hath indeed fulfilled in heaven, and her shower of roses hath continued to this very day. The Sovereign Pontiff Pius XI added her name to the Virgins declared Blessed and two years later, at the time of the great Jubilee, listed her among the Saints. He also appointed and declared her Patroness of all the missions.

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