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The Little Known St Therese Header

 

On October 1 the liturgy of the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, “the greatest saint of modern times,” in the words of Pope Saint Pius X. The charm of her “Little Way,” with all its sweetness and mercy, admirably harmonizes with the traits of a genuine warrior, “I would die in a battlefield, arms in hand,” she once stated.1

 

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Her soul had infinite aspirations: she wanted to be a warrior, priest, apostle, doctor of the Church and martyr; she felt the courage of a crusader, of a Papal Zouave; she wanted to die in the battlefield defending the Church; she wanted to preach the Gospel to the four continents and to the remotest islands.  “‘Jesus, Jesus’—she would say—‘if I were to write all my desires, I would have to borrow Thy book of life; I wanted to have achieved all these deeds for Thee . . . .’”2

 

St ThereseAn Admirer of Saint Joan of Arc

This warrior aspect of Saint Thérèse’s soul is dominant in her moral profile. Yet, even those who love her most, tend to forget this trait.

“In my childhood, I dreamed of combating in the battlefield. When I began to learn the history of France, I was enchanted with the deeds of Joan of Arc; I felt in my heart a desire and courage to imitate them.”3 

Saint Thérèse gradually became increasingly aware of the profound similarities between her life and that of the Virgin of Donrémy. Thus, on January 21, 1894, the 101st anniversary of the martyrdom of the unfortunate King Louis XVI, she wrote a theater play titled, The Mission of Joan of Arc.

The following year, as Pope Leo XIII declared her “Venerable,” and France celebrated it’s holy martyr and warrior, Saint Thérèse wrote the play, Joan of Arc Fulfills Her Mission, which the whole religious community staged. Saint Thérèse played the role of Joan of Arc.

The play featured the conquest of Orleans, the coronation of King Charles VII, but above all Saint Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake, which to Saint Thérèse meant the apex of the achievement of the heroine’s mission.

Saint Thérèse signed her Canticle to obtain the canonization of Saint Joan of Arc as “A French soldier, defender of the Church and admirer of Joan of Arc.”

Saint Joan, the Virgin of Orleans, and Saint Thérèse, the Virgin of Lisieux, are two models of militant Catholic combatants against the enemies of the Church and of Christian Civilization. Two great saints, though leading such different lives—one a strictly military life and the other a contemplative one—nonetheless have profound affinities with each other.

Saint Thérèse did not live to see Saint Joan’s canonization, and she was far from imagining that, on May 18, 1925, Pope Pius XI would present her, Saint Thérèse, to the Catholic world as “a new Joan of Arc”; and that during the Second World War, Pope Pius XII would declare her, like the Virgin of Orleans, “secondary patron of all France!”

 

A Crusader Soul; Apparitions; the Combatant

The idea of fight constantly fed the strong soul of the saint of the “Shower of Roses.”

“I went to sleep for a few moments during prayer,” she would tell Mother Agnes. “I dreamt there were not enough soldiers for a war against the Prussians. You said: We need to send Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. I answered that I agreed, but that I would prefer to fight at a holy war. But finally I went all the same.

“Oh no, I would not fear going to war. With what joy, for example, at the time of the Crusades, I would have gone to combat heretics. Yes! I would not have been afraid to be shot; I would not have feared the fire!4 

“When I think I’m dying in bed! I would want to die in an arena!”5 

The same combative spirit animated her in the struggles of the spiritual life: “Sanctity! We need to conquer it at the tip of the sword . . . we need to fight!”6 

Such is the mettle of this extremely active and energetic warrior soul, according to the testimonies of those who knew her: “Under a suave and gracious aspect [she] revealed at every instant, in her actions, a strong character and a manly soul; she would not be discouraged in her dedication to the interests of the Church.”7 

“This is a manly soul, a great man,” Pope Pius XI later said. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus thus followed the advice of the great Saint Thérèse of Avila to her daughters: “I want you not to be women in anything, but equal to strong men in everything!”8  

St Therese as a nunThus wrote Cardinal Vico about the Virgin of Lisieux, “Thérèse’s virtue imposes itself with incredible majesty: the child becomes a hero; a virgin with her hands full of flowers causes astonishment with her manly courage.”9 

A handwriting analysis of Saint Thérèse’s Act of Profession gives this admirable testimony: “An iron-clad resolution, a great will to fight, an indomitable energy are expressed here. These traits show at the same time the fright of a child and the decisiveness of a warrior.”10 

In 1914, when the First World War breaks out, Saint Thérèse appears some forty times in various battlefields, at times holding a cross in her hand, at times a saber! The soldiers see her; she speaks to them matter-of-factly, resolves their doubts, overcomes their temptations and calms their fears. She protects, consoles and converts them.

French soldiers would invoke her as “my little sister of the trenches,” “my war patroness,” “the shield of soldiers,” “the angel of battles” and “my dear little Captain.” A soldier wrote, “In fact, that gentle Saint will be the great heroine of this war.” Another commented, “I think of her when the cannon thunders with great roar.”

Countless were the artillery pieces and planes named after Sister Thérèse; whole regiments were consecrated to her. Countless relics of the saint that miraculously stopped rifle bullets like real shields, saving the lives of the soldiers who carried them, are in her convent of Lisieux, a testimony to the great prodigies of the one who, in fact, “died with arms in her hand.”11

 

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NOTES:
1. Poésies de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, “Mes armes,” March 25, 1897, Office Central de Lisieux, 1951.
2. Manuscrits Autobiographiques, dedicated to Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart, Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, folio 4 t’.
3. Lettres de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, Letter to Father Belliere, Office Central de Lisieux, 1948.
4. Carnet Jaune, 4.8.6 in Demiers entretiens, Éditions du Centenaire, Desclée de Brouwer ­Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1971.
5. Summarium of the Process of Beatification and Canonization 1, testimony of Celine, 2753.
6. Correspondance Générale, Éditions du Cerf-Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1972, t. I (1877–1890), Letter (no. 89) Celine, April 26, 1889; Letter to Leonie, May 20, 1894.
7. Summarium of the Process of Beatification and Canonization 1, testimony of Mother Agnes, 706, and of Mother Therese of Saint Augustine, 1072.
8. Lettres de Sainte Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus, as quoted by Saint Therese of Avila in a letter to Father Rouland, November 10, 1896, Office Central de Lisieux, 1948.
9. L’Esprit de Ia Bienheureuse Thérese de l’Enfant-Jésus d’après ses écrits et des témoins occulaires de sa vie. Office Central de Lisieux, 1924, Preface, at VIII.
10. Father François de Sainte-Marie, OCDP, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, vol. II, 53.
11. Cf. Interventions de Sr. Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus pendant la guerre, Pluie de Roses, Lisieux, 1920; and Ch. Gabriel Sarraute, Un soldat français: sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, Imprimerie Morière, 1970.


 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 31, 2020

Pray for the reestablishment of the kingdom of God, for the...

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Pentecost Sunday

 

Pray for the reestablishment of the kingdom of God,
for the spread of the Faith,
for the praise and triumph of our Holy Mother Church …
Pray for the unfaithful
and for heretics and
for the conversion of sinners.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


GOD, ALWAYS! SATANNEVER! 

PROTEST the "Hail Satan?" Movie

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This feast celebrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizab...

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Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth was established throughout the Church in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

When the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Son of God, he also told her of her cousin’s miraculous pregnancy. We read in Luke 1:39-40 “…And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.”

At Mary's greeting, Elizabeth felt her six-month baby leap in her womb and exclaimed filled with the Holy Ghost: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:42-44

The first part of Elizabeth’s salutation forms the second sentence of the Hail Mary. Mary, in turn, overflowing with joy and gratitude for her election, responds with the prayer of the Magnificat.

Elizabeth’s salutation to Mary as “Blessed…among women” and “mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the first expression of the Church’s devotion to Mary as the exalted handmaid of the Lord, and true mother of God made man.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Eutychian, Patriarch of Constantinople, relates the followin...

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Freed from a Contract with the Devil

Eutychian, Patriarch of Constantinople, relates the following well-known story of Theophilus (6th century). The Patriarch was an eyewitness of the fact which we relate here, and which is also confirmed by St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Antoninus, and others.

Theophilus was an archdeacon of the Church of Adanas, a city of Cilicia, and was so well esteemed that the people wished him to become their bishop, but his humility prevented his consent.

Afterwards, some malicious persons slandered him, and he was deposed from his office. Upset and blinded by passion, he went to a magician, who induced him to apply to Satan for help in his misfortunes. 

The devil answered that if he wished his assistance, he must renounce Jesus, and Mary his mother, and hand over to him the act of renunciation, written with his own hand.  Theophilus executed the vile document. On the following day the bishop, having heard of the wrong done him by his calumniators, asked his forgiveness, and restored him to his office. 

But Theophilus began to feel so tortured by the pangs of remorse over the great crime he had committed, that he wept continually.

Entering a church, he prostrated himself in tears before an altar of the Blessed Virgin, exclaiming: “O, mother of God, having you who art so merciful, I will not despair of your help.”

Thus he persevered for forty days, weeping and praying to the Holy Virgin.

Behold, one night the mother of mercy appeared to him and said: “O, Theophilus, what have you done? You have renounced my friendship and that of my Son, and for whom, but for the sake of your enemy and mine!”

“O, Lady,” answered Theophilus, “it is in thy hand to pardon me, and to obtain my pardon from thy Son.”

Then, Mary, seeing his confidence, answered, “Take courage and I will pray for thee.”

Theophilus, encouraged by these words, redoubled his tears, his penance, and his prayers, remaining constantly at the foot of the altar. And, behold, Mary appeared to him again, and with a joyful countenance said to him:

“Theophilus, rejoice, I have presented thy tears and thy prayers to God; He hath accepted them, and hath already pardoned thee; henceforth be grateful and faithful.”

“Lady,” replied Theophilus, “this is not sufficient to console me; the enemy still possesses the impious deed, by which I have renounced thee and thy Son; thou canst obtain it for me.”

After three days, Theophilus awoke one night, and found the paper on his breast.

The next day, when the bishop with a large assembly were present in church, Theophilus cast himself at his feet, related the whole story, weeping bitterly, and handed him the infamous writing, which the bishop immediately ordered to be burned in the presence of the congregation. The people wept for joy, praising the goodness of God, and the mercy of Mary towards that miserable sinner.

Theophilus returned to the church of the Virgin, and there, three days later, died happily, with thanksgivings to Jesus and his holy mother on his lips.

References:  Glories of Mary, New Revised Edition of 1888, p.196

Eutychian, Patriarch of Constantinople, relates the following well-known story of Theophilus (6th century). The Patriarch was an eyewitness of the fact which we relate here,

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