September 30, 2011

Love in the Heart of the Church

Therese as a novice
Today is the 114 anniversary of the death of St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as "The Little Flower."  Tomorrow, October 1, is her feast day. When people hear that I have an affection toward St. Therese, and have read all her works, the conversation always seems to come around to receiving roses as an answer to prayers. I can honestly say that I have never ever received a rose from Therese, nor flowers of any kind. I like roses and I would love to receive one or more,  but I don't think receiving a sign is what's really important nor do I think that was what Therese had in mind when she wrote, "After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.  I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved..."

Therese, in her short life, came to realize that her vocation was to be "Love in the Heart of the Church." But what did Therese mean to "be" Love? She sees herself as a "victim" to God's merciful Love. She surrenders all she is to the Love of Christ, her joys, her work, her relationships, and most of all her suffering. Her aim in this surrender is to serve Christ and through serving Christ to serve the Church. Her motto, taken from John of the Cross, is "Love is repaid by love alone." In her singular devotion to Christ, in her Love for Him, she becomes Love.  It's all mystical theology and I don't claim to fully understand it, but as  Doctor of the Church Therese's theology of Love and the Little Way certainly has influenced many Catholics. 

What Therese teaches us in her "Little Way" is to make Love the focus of all that we do and all that we are.  Although Therese was a nineteenth century Carmelite, I am sure she would agree with Holy Father Benedict who wrote in his Rule in the sixth century, "Prefer nothing to the Love of Christ." The "roses" that Therese sends may not be the kind that grow in gardens, but they are petals of Divine Love that through her intercession God showers down upon those who Love.

If you have never read "The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux," I highly recommend that you add it to your reading list.  The Therese you meet between the covers of the book is not the saccharine saint that is depicted on holy cards and statues, but a young woman who despite tremendous suffering and the Dark Night of the Soul, remains faithful and continues to BE LOVE in the heart of the Church today.

POST SCRIPT:  This afternoon after writing this I went to the store to buy some things to celebrate my husband's birthday this evening. I picked up an inexpensive bouquet of fall flowers to put on the table. Not really looking at it closely, I chose the bouquet because of the asters and mums that were prominent. As I unwrapped the cellophane surrounding the bouquet, to my surprise there were two red roses hidden in the center.

I didn't really need a sign, but thanks Therese.

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