The climax of St. Thérèse’s beautiful life on earth was her final agony and amazing ecstasy. Before her final breath, she prophesized with utmost conviction that God had great plans for her on the other side, and of what God would allow her to do on earth, while in heaven. She knew that she was going to be one of the busiest saints in heaven. She would be working all the time.
So much happened right after her death on September 30, 1897. By 1898, her Carmelite monastery began to publish “The Story of a Soul”. They started with 2000 copies and by 1899, the first favors and cures and miracles were already starting to come in. Twelve years after her death, her cause was introduced for her canonization. By 1910, in one year she had received 9741 letters from people in France and foreign countries. She was active. She got right to work.
In 1914 the Carmel would receive on average of 200 letters a day. That year, Pope Pius 10th told a missionary that St. Thérèse would be the greatest saint in modern times. She was beatified in 1923, and by this time the Carmel was receiving 800 – 1000 letters a day.
By 1925, she was formally canonized. By 1927 she became the Patroness of Missions, yet she was a cloistered nuns who never left the cloister! One would never have expected it but Thérèse expected it. She knew. She knew she was going to be a missionary after she left this life. It is an amazing testimony to the power of God at work in the world today.
By 1929, the Little Flower had a huge basilica in her honor. She continues until the end of time to be a blessing to many. God is the author behind it, the one bringing about the harvest of what she is doing in heaven. The answered prayers are all coming from the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Thérèse in a specific way shared in that cross with Jesus. She truly shared in it. That is part of the amazing truth that is quite startling at times – the measure that we share in the cross of Jesus is the same measure we share in the resurrection. Daunting but very, very true!
I recently went to the shrine of St Padre Pio for the first time. The pilgrimage site is an ongoing fountain of spiritual life that is just bursting at the seam. So many people from all over come to honor him. And while I have never been to Thérèse’s basilica, I know that the devotion is the same for St. Thérèse. Her witness is the Gospel, the Bethlehem, the Calvary and the empty tomb transplanted to a new place in the world. Yet it is the same fruit of redemption that is continually flowing. So much of the hidden sacrifices that nobody ever saw in the lives of Thérèse and Father Pio and so many, produced a harvest that came later. In every sacrifice there is a seed of promise.
One of the ways Thérèse put into practice her zeal, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, which are in separable, was that she made a point to take advantage of every opportunity to offer Jesus some sacrifice in thanksgiving and praise of Him. Whether it was something as simple as a random act of kindness, courtesy, charity, a smile, a phone call, a letter, a card, any little thing – including the negative things like enduring not needing to have the last word in an argument. She lived and represented the dispositions of Jesus.
To conclude, I have a summary reflection on everything about Thérèse. In a few words, I would paraphrase In the Footsteps of Thérèse as inspired from Manuscript B as follows:
How awesome is God’s divine and indescribable condescension in Christ, His love that reaches unto folly from the crib to the cross. It is He, Himself, in His zeal for us who in countless ways does all in his power to inspire in us limitless confidence, to not be afraid; to daringly abandon ourselves to His Divine Mercy; to aspire to the most lofty heights to the possession of the plentitude of love, to the bosom of the eternal fire of the blessed trinity.
In this ascent to the inaccessible light Thérèse teaches us that it is our weakness that is to give us the boldness of our full trust and surrender. For in order, as St. Thérèse says, ‘that love, that Jesus may be fully satisfied it is necessary that it lower itself and to lower itself to nothingness’- that is, us in our weakness, us in our littleness and powerlessness, us in our fragile nature – ‘and transform this nothingness into fire.’
Therefore, we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, to love our littleness, to love to feel nothing and to remain very far from all that sparkles. Such humility of a child has power to cast out and conquer all discouragement. Jesus’ work, His total sacrifice, His accomplishments and merits, His righteousness is the sweet assurance of our salvation. Precious Jesus is our justice, our justification, before the perfect holiness of the Father.
May the divine gaze of God’s holy face dawn upon us and qualify us among his chosen legion of little souls worthy of his everlasting love.
SOURCE: San Rafael Carmel Retreat 2016, Transcribed by Linda Dorian
Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD