St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Please Pray for Us! (Novena)

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

“In order that Love may be fully satisfied it must needs

stoop to very nothingness and transform that nothingness into fire (Story of a Soul, Chapter XI).”

St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, remains one of the most beloved of all the saints. In 1888, this young sister entered the Carmelite Cloister (with the special permission of the Holy Father himself) at the tender age of 15; she died a mere 9 years later. Therese longed to be a missionary, an apostle, and a prophet,- to travel to each of the continents spreading the Gospel of Christ, yet her plans were not God’s plans. She would indeed travel to the five continents, and spread the love of Christ, but it would be after her death, in the hearts of those who sought Christ through her “Little Way.” I was present in October of 1999 when her relics arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill, as they continued in pilgrimage around the world. Hundreds of thousands of faithful were introduced to her unique path to sanctity during this world-wide tour, and the shower of grace continues.

Young Therese petitioning the Pope Leo XIII for entrance to Carmel at the age of 15. This beautiful stained glass window is one of a series on the life of the saint that will soon grace the St. Therese Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As her life in the Carmel of Lisieux unfolded, St. Therese soon realized that her ultimate vocation was a call to love within the heart of the Church. In her short time in Carmel, she perfected her “Little Way,”- a path of love which leads right to the Door of Heaven. St. Therese found that offering her weakness and littleness to God was as mighty and heroic as magnificent deeds beyond her call.

In Chapter 4 of her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese states:

“Jesus made me understand that the true, the only glory is that which will last forever; that to attain it we need not perform wonderful deeds, but rather those hidden from the eyes of others and self, so that the ‘left hand knoweth not what the right hand doth (Matthew 6:3).’”

St. Therese states, “I am a very little soul who can offer only very little things to the Good God. . . (The Story of a Soul, Ch. X).” The Little Flower realized that mighty heroic deeds as a missionary were not what had been planned for her from all eternity. No, her daily sacrifice of the mundane, her authentic humility, and unwavering love brought the Little Flower into full communion with her beloved spouse. “Love alone have I ever given to the good God, and with love He will repay me (Story of a Soul,Chapter XIII).”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Stained Glass Window from the Chapel in the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, WI. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Therese discovered the intense mystery of Love in the simplicity of daily duty. As St. Therese made an “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” she completely abandoned herself to the merciful love of Christ. She lived, suffered, and died, united to her beloved spouse. She became little so that the Almighty might reveal His glory through her humility.

Pope Pius X called St. Therese: “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1927, Pope Pius XI named St. Therese the patroness of the missions, and in 1944 Pope Pius XII placed her beside her beloved St. Joan of Arc, in naming her co-patroness of France. On October 19, 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great declared St. Therese to be one of the thirty-four doctors of the Universal Church, in his Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia(The Science of Divine Love).

Among her ardent admirers have included such souls as: Pope John Paul I (Cardinal Albino Luciano), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and St. Maximillian Kolbe. This remarkable young woman, and her “Little Way” have greatly influenced a myriad of souls. As St. Therese predicted, a shower of roses, a plentitude of grace, is often granted to those who earnestly seek her intercession with the God whom she loved and served so well while on Earth.

St. Therese statue at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In preparation for her Feast Day, celebrated on October 1, please consider joining me in the following novena, which begins today:

Eternal Father, I thank you for the graces you have bestowed upon St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. I offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus in gratitude for the beauty of her soul. Thank you for preserving her baptismal innocence and instilling in her a burning love for You. Thank You for calling St. Therese to the sweet sacrificial life of Carmel. Thank You for giving her the grace to live as a beloved and faithful spouse of Christ, and a spiritual mother to many souls.

Please fill my heart with the grace of a humble child-like love, so that like the Little Flower, I may live in Your friendship and enjoy the gift of everlasting bliss in Your Heavenly presence. Please grant me the spiritual and temporal graces that I need to live in imitation of this saint whom I so deeply admire, especially the grace which I request in this novena, if it be for the good of my soul and in accord with Your Divine Will (mention your request here). I place my petition in the hands of the Little Flower, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Amen. (One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be).

May St. Therese of Lisieux, intercede for us and send a shower of roses upon all those who invoke her intercession.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

Unless You Become as a Child. . . .

Our Little Holy Family at the Christmas Parade- © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Our Little Holy Family at the Christmas Parade- © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

In this beautiful season of Advent, I am perpetually reminded of the need to embrace Jesus with the heart of a child. Sacred scripture is replete with Christ’s admonitions to approach Him with child-like faith. In Luke 18:16-17, Our Lord states: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter into it (NAB).”

Living with eight children makes it abundantly clear how often Our Heavenly Father “hides things from the learned and reveals them to mere children (MT 11:25).” It is in their eyes that I most often find the glow of faith, and in their hearts that I find a pure love that   humbles me to near spiritual envy.

Crib of Sacrificial Love- © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Crib of Sacrificial Love- © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

During Advent, we try to offer additional acts of sacrifice. This year, our family is initiating a new tradition. The kids and I are writing our sacrifices on small strips of colored paper, and leaving them in the Christ Child’s crib. The tiny crib is located in our family shine, under the table which holds our Pilgrim Virgin statue.  Like many pieces of straw, we hope to provide a warm place for Our Savior to rest His infant head.  When the kids first began leaving their sacrifices, I smiled at their efforts, but thought myself a bit above the need to do the same. However, at the prodding of my 7-year-old, I too have begun to offer my little trials in the same manner.  The first time I left a slip of paper, I realized that to place it in the crib under the table, I would have to get down on my knees to do so. God has a wonderful way of providing humility as an antidote to pride! As the week has passed, I have found this little exercise to be spiritually fruitful. Amazing what one can learn from a 7-year-old!

The same spiritual progress that I have to actively work to achieve seems to come almost instinctively to children. Over the years there have been many new arrivals in our home- some via St. Joe’s Hospital, and others via American Airlines and the adoption agency. The eager anticipation that accompanies the arrival of a new child is familiar territory for my children- even the really little ones. They seem to instinctively transfer the same joyful expectation to the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas. The glow of the lights, the glimmer of decorations, violins softly practicing for Christmas Eve Mass all add to the atmosphere of Advent bliss. The rhythm of the daily Mass readings and those of the Divine Office provide a backdrop against which our Advent days pass in advance of Holy Christmas. There are still (many) moments of anxiety, sibling squabbles, and homeschool headaches. However, Advent has afforded us the opportunity to present these as straw in the crib of Our Infant Savior. He gives us so much; the kids teach me how to return it all to Him.

May We Be Enlightened by a Ray of Light. . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

May We Be Enlightened by a Ray of Light. . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

One of my favorite saints is St. Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897). In humility, this Carmelite saint understood that austere penances and bloody martyrdom of the great saints were beyond her capabilities. Instead, the Holy Spirit lead this, the youngest Doctor of the Church to develop a path to Heaven, her  “little way,” based upon childlike love, confidence and sacrifice for her Beloved Spouse. A few days before her death, St. Therese was asked about the “Llittle Way,” that she hoped to teach souls, to which she replied:

“It is the path of spiritual childhood, it is the way of trust and of entire self-surrender. I want to make known to them the simple means that have so perfectly succeeded for me, to tell them there is but one thing to do here below: to cast down before Jesus the flowers of the little sacrifices, to win Him by caresses. That is how I have won Him, and why I will be so well received (The Story of A Soul, Ch. XII).”

I love St. Therese! I too, am well aware that the martyrdom of saints like: Philomena, Agnes, Felicita, Perpetua, Cecelia, Margaret Clitherow, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and so many others is well beyond my grasp. After years in healthcare I’m o.k. with other people’s blood, but the sight of my own still makes me ooogy. Thus, St. Therese’s “Little Way” is a path to sanctity that I can embark upon. I easily recognize my littleness- my imperfections are too glaring to ignore- thus, with St. Therese’s guidance, I can offer them as straw in the crib, and likewise hope to attain the sanctity for which I long. In God’s profound goodness, He has given me eight little professors in His school of child-like sanctity- all I have to do is pay attention.

In this week’s Angelus Message for the Second Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict exhorts us to: “find time for self contemplation and carry out an honest assessment of our lives.” In my home, quiet time for contemplation is rare; thus making our Holy Father’s directive a bit of a challenge. Yet I find that in His Providence, God supplies those moments of enlightenment through the noise and chaos that is our busy home. It is in listening to children, and observing the care with which they prepare their hearts, that my own heart is indeed transformed. In Sunday’s Angelus Message, Pope Benedict went on to say: “May we be enlightened by a ray of the light that comes from Bethlehem, the light of He who is “the Greatest” and made himself small, he who is “the Strongest” but became weak.”

I am beginning to realize that it is in the small and weak around us, in their tiny voices that I can best hear the Infant Christ. Lord, speak, Your servant is listening!

Blessed Second Week of Advent.

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A.  JMJ