Thérèse of Lisieux never left her convent. However, in 1927, the young Carmelite was proclaimed patroness of the missions. Why has she touched so many people around the world since her death?
John of Saint-Cheron: Died at the age of 24, she left the story of a lightning journey of holiness in a very short life. The Story of a Soul had an immediate impact, literary and spiritual, in France and elsewhere.
During the First World War, less than twenty years after her death in 1897, when she was not even beatified yet, the soldiers in the trenches began to pray to their “little saint”. They see her as a warrior who can help them fight and hold on. Their confidence in her goes over enemy lines, and the German soldiers, too, are won over by devotion to Therese. Soldiers on both sides see in her a figure who soothes their suffering and helps them through the night of war. The hairy people, after the armistice, advanced his cause for beatification by writing a petition to the pope in his favour.
She had great desires… Died as an obscure Carmelite, she made herself known to hundreds of thousands of people!
J. de S.-C. : She joins us precisely through her great desires. We all want to be happy, even if this desire varies according to the singularity, the history, the personality of each one. Thérèse is ambitious. From the age of reason, she wants a happy, glorious life, a great love story… desires that cross us all.
She also joins us by talking to us very concretely about everyday life, at recreation, in the housework, in the kitchen, far from an above-ground, vaporous mystique. She talks about what she experiences with her sisters, in her family and then in Carmel, rather than developing pages on prayer. The anecdotes she relates join the daily life of anyone in any family in the world.
Finally, she touches very widely because her faith is immense, and first of all her faith in the power of prayer. She deeply believes that a life spent begging God is not a wasted life, like a loud, useless cry thrown into the night.
An ambitious woman with a very simple life… Thérèse is full of paradoxes…
J. de S.-C. : Indeed, at the heart of her mission is the great revelation she made on Christmas Eve 1886, the night of her conversion. She suddenly becomes aware that it is by forgetting herself, by resisting her little selfish mood swing, her fleeting whim, that she will be able to do good and show love. Upset by her father that Christmas, she turns away from herself to focus on the need for love of others, her father in this case: she swallows back her tears and gives him a big smile.
It is this self-forgetfulness that she will deploy throughout her life in Carmel, where she entered at the age of fifteen at the tip of the sword, as a warrior and a little girl all at the same time. As a little girl because, to love, you have to be humble, to recognize that you are not everything. It also takes trust, a virtue of children who depend on their parents for food. She expects from God the strength to be able to love others.
The little girl is also, paradoxically, a warrior, because love is a battle every second. She will know how to find extraordinary subterfuges to love people she cannot stand, nuns whom she finds boring and talkative, or who make unbearable noises with their mouths during prayer… Unable to love them in her feelings, she will love them by her actions.
Some would say she’s a hypocrite. In fact, she put her finger on the fact that love is an act of the will. She begins to make do with those she can’t stand as she would with the person she loves the most in the world. A nun said after her death that she had never understood why she was Thérèse’s favourite. In reality, Thérèse probably had trouble liking him.
These paradoxes, she also bears them in her religious name, “Thérèse of the Child Jesus” first, to which she then adds “and of the Holy Face”, the face of Christ of the Passion…
J. de S.-C. : When she took the habit, she discovered the splendor of the Holy Face, the painful face of her beloved. By taking on both the face of the Child in the manger and that of the Crucified, she holds in her very name all the mystery of love. God became a little child, he experienced this radical abasement, this voluntary humiliation for love of men. Going to the end of love, he agreed to give up his life for men, to go through agony (a Greek word meaning “combat”). The Christ of the Passion is not a simple victim, he is a voluntary victim who offers himself, he is a fighter for love, the first, the greatest.
Thérèse understands that this is the soil of any authentic mission: to be humble and to fight to the end to proclaim love. Love is not preached by grand speeches or by morality, it is proclaimed by loving. “It is by the love you have for each other that you will be recognized as my disciples”, said Jesus (John 13, 35): this is what Thérèse of Lisieux wanted, with supreme freedom. , put into action to witness to the Gospel in the world.
She will live this fight until the night of faith.
J. de S.-C. : She will indeed go through a terrible night of faith, losing for two years all sense of the existence of God and even of the existence of Heaven. She makes her way there by sowing acts of love. It is by contemplating the work of God through her own hands that she continues to have faith and to be able to pass it on to others.
From April 28 to 30, 2023, the sanctuary of Lisieux celebrates the centenary of the beatification of Thérèse of Lisieux, under the presidency of Mgr Aveline, Archbishop of Marseilles
– Religious celebrations will punctuate the whole weekend from Friday afternoon (masses, celebration with the sick, veneration of relics, vigil at the Carmel…)
– An exhibition “Thérèse, woman of culture, education, peace”, in partnership with UNESCO, will be inaugurated on Friday 28 at 8 p.m.
– Concert: Poems of Thérèse in music, by the vocal ensemble Bella Carmina, conducted by Gilles Treille (Friday 28 at 9 pm in the crypt).
– “Once upon a time, Thérèse” fireworks display (Saturday 29 at 10:15 p.m., at the basilica).
Complete program on https://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/evenement/week-end-jubile-de-la-beatification/