01 October 2012

Pope Benedict on St Thérèse of Lisieux

Thanks to Irmo Francis Valeza SJ for the link to the video on his Facebook. The original is on Rome Reports.

Today is the tenth anniversary of my starting as editor of Misyon, the magazine of the Columbans in the Philippines. I was very happy to start on the feast day of St Thérèse of Lisieux, whom I 're-discovered' about twenty years ago. I had read Story of a Soul as a young seminarian - my dentist from childhood, the late Dr Éadbhard O’Brien-Moran, gave me a copy when I was entering the Columbans in 1961 - but didn't find it particularly appealing, maybe because of the style of writing.

But I decided to give it another go forty or so years later and have read it many times since then. I have also found it helpful in telling people how the saint's Little Way can lead us to the holiness to which each of us is called, as Lumen Gentium, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II so forcibly reminds us: Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: 'For this is the will of God, your sanctification' [l Thess 4:3; cf. Eph1:4].

St Thérèse [photo by her older sister Céline, Sr Geneviève in the Lisieux Carmel]

And this was a reminder, not something knew. St Thérèse expresses it this way: Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants us to be (translation of Ronald Knox) or Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He will us to be (translation of John Clarke OCD).

This statement comes at the end of a comparison that St Thérèse makes between different souls and different kinds of flowers, according to God's will. It's a living image of holiness or perfection, an image of ongoing growth, quite different from the 'blueprint' image of perfection or holiness that I used to have. A blueprint is appropriate for a building but not for a living being, unless you are an architect with the vision of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, whose yet unfinished Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) in Barcelona was consecrated by Pope Benedict in 2010.

Detail of the roof in the nave. Gaudi designed the columns to mirror trees and branches.

Here St Thérèse speaks to us in her own words: 

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