Father Robert Elias, OCD: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 8

Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery. Photo credit: The Speakroom


St. Therese’s Feast Day Novena Prayer:

St. Therese, Flower of fervor and love, please intercede for us. Fill our hearts with your pure love of God. As we approach and celebrate your feast day, make us more aware of the goodness of God and how well He tends His garden. Instill in us your little way of doing ordinary things with extra-ordinary love.

Give us the heart of a child who wonders at life and embraces everything with loving enthusiasm. Teach us your delight in God’s ways so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts. Little Flower of Jesus, bring our petitions (mention in silence here)  before God, our Father.

With your confidence, we come before Jesus as God’s children, because you are our heavenly friend. As we celebrate the Feast Day of your homecoming in heaven, continue to shower roses and grace upon us.


Thérèse explains prayer in two marvelous ways: she expresses her desire for Jesus to draw her, and she compares prayer to a fulcrum. She says, “He made me understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles, the Psalm of Psalms. ‘Draw me. We shall run after You in the odor of Your ointments.’ Oh Jesus, it is not even necessary to say when drawing me, draw the souls that I love. This simple statement, ‘Draw me,’ suffices. I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of Your ointments, she cannot run alone. All the souls whom she loves follow in her train. This is done without constraint. For simple souls, there must be no complicated ways. This is done without effort. It is a natural consequence of her attraction for You.

She then explains the power of this attraction when she writes, “Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, oh Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your love draws with her all the treasures she possesses.”

We need to stop and chew on the meaning of this passage, to digest and allow it to sink in our heart of hearts, so that the meaning enters into our very bones, our marrow, and our inner beings.

What are the treasures she possesses that are drawn to God’s ocean of love? She says, “Lord, You know that I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine.” For you who are parents, your greatest treasures are your children. Saint Thérèse says something very similar. “It is You who entrusted these treasures to me.

She continues, “Yes, Lord, this is what I would like to repeat after you before flying into Your arms.” She then quotes John 17, where Jesus before His Passion says, “I have glorified you on earth. I have finished the work you have given me to do, and now, do You, Father, glorify me with yourself that those you have given me may be with me where I am.”

She says, “You have said to me, Lord, as the father of the prodigal son said to his older son, ‘Everything that is mine is yours,’ your words, oh Jesus, are mine. Then as I can make use of them, to draw upon the souls united to me the favors of the heavenly Father.” These words are the makings of a blockbuster, a powerhouse. In other words, she says, ‘Since you said that everything you have is mine, I will make use of your words to draw the souls united to me – to God.’

Pope Francis says something very similar to Thérèse. Anybody who thinks that Pope Francis is not orthodox enough, or that he is a little bit liberal, would think that Jesus was too liberal too because Pope Francis is in the spirit of Jesus. He has the radical folly, the holy audacity and daring of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the ‘wild madman,’ completely out of the box, and yet still orthodox. This is Pope Francis and he loves the Little Flower. He expresses the wisdom and the spirit of Saint Thérèse, so don’t be afraid of Pope Francis. He is the real deal holy field!

Pope Francis says, “We have to take Jesus at His word and use his word.” In other words, the Word of God doesn’t work until we work it, just like dough.

My grandmother used to make bread from scratch; she was a tough lady from the old country. She would put everything in her silver pot, and work that dough so strongly with these big wooden spoons that you could see the muscles in her biceps. She’d work it, and she’d punch it, to get all the bubbles out in order for the dough to develop.

We have to work on the Word of God, let the Word of God work in us, and use that Word with Jesus. Pope Francis says we must lift up the Word and say ‘Look Lord, you said it. You said you would do it. Come on now, let’s get down to work. Let’s get to business. Make it happen. Do what you do best. Take action.’

Thérèse takes it further when she writes, “Oh my God, I have never desired anything but to love you and I am ambitious for no other glory. Your love has gone before me and it has grown with me, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom. Love attracts love and my Jesus, my love leaps towards you. It would like to fill the abyss which attracts it. But alas, it is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean. Oh my Jesus, it is perhaps an illusion, but it seems to me that you cannot fill a soul with more love than the love with which you have filled mine.”

That is humility.

It is for this reason that I dare to ask you to love those whom you have given me with the love with which you have loved me.” That captures the mission and charism of Saint Thérèse, who received a two-fold spirit from Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Elijah.

Here on earth, I cannot conceive a greater immensity of love than the one with which it has pleased you to give me freely without any merit of mine.” In other words, ‘It hasn’t been my perfect performance as an all-star spiritual athlete that has made me experience these great things. On the contrary, because I have allowed myself to become so little, so small, and embrace and rejoice in that nothingness, that God has lifted me up on His eagle’s wings.’

“I ask you Jesus, to draw me into the flames of your love to unite me so closely to you that you may live and act in me.

Finally, Saint Thérèse talks about the fulcrum of prayer. She says, “All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who fill the world with the light of the gospel teachings.” Jesus says, ‘a disciple will eventually become like their master.’ She became also, as those whom she was inspired by. Saint Thérèse mentions, “I have only to cast a glance in the gospels, and immediately, I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus’s love. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses?” She’s rockin’ it now. She’s like a whistling kettle that’s piping hot. She’s on fire!

A scholar has said, give me a lever and a fulcrum, and I will lift the world. What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God, and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained, the almighty has given them as fulcrum, Himself alone and as lever, prayer, which burns with a fire of love, and it is in this way that they have lifted the world.”

What’s the fulcrum? God Himself. God’s Word. God’s Spirit.

Saint Thérèse adds, “In this way, the saints still militant lift it [the Christians on earth] and that until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.

What’s the lever? Our prayer, burning with the fire of love, which means the Holy Spirit praying in us in order to lift up the world in intercession for salvation, in companion with the saints in heaven.

Finally, to conclude her Autobiography, Saint Thérèse says this, “I repeat, filled with confidence the publican’s humble prayer [‘Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner’]. Most of all, I imitate the conduct of Magdalene. Yes, I feel it. Even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow and throw myself into Jesus’ arms for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.

As we prepare ourselves for the eucharist of our lives, let us follow Saint Thérèse ’s lead to take God Himself as a fulcrum, and through prayer, confidence in the Holy Spirit, based on His Word, lift up our needs and our intentions to the Lord with hopeful expectation that God will answer, according to what is best for us and our families – not necessarily according to our expectations, but according to what is best in bringing out a greater good – and in the timing that He sees fit, according to a particular season that His providence ordains.

In other words, have hopeful expectation with no strings attached. Know that God will answer when it is good for you. He will answer. Our prayers in this Novena are not ever at all in vain because they are done in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saint Thérèse, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, San Francisco)

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