BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
MORE ABOUT SANCTITY
This consoling doctrine
is providentially confirmed by
St. Teresa of the Child Jesus.
WHEN we consider that Providence is insistently calling to a life of perfection men and women of every class, on whom graces have been bestowed in abundance, we cannot help feeling sorry that there are not more saints. How sad it is to see marvelous treasures of light and love disdained, wasted and frittered away. And yet all the materials needed for the forging of heroes of virtue, or saints — the bronze, the crucible, the workmen — are ready at hand. Favorable circumstances have been wisely accumulated by the skill and foresight of Providence for the realization of a masterpiece, so that success, as far as heaven is concerned, is assured. And in the midst of the forge stands the Master of masters, the Divine Craftsman, Whose eyes are increate Beauty, Whose hands are Truth and Omnipotence, Whose Heart is throbbing with Divine eagerness. He is anxiously waiting there for the decisive fiat of the human heart, and whenever this rings out resolute and generous the Master sets to work, and soon breathes into the bronze the breath of immortality which, in the Garden, transformed a body of clay into the perfect Adam.
This prodigy of grace is only realized at rare intervals and, in the meanwhile, the furnace dies out, the bronze becomes rusty and the workmen who have been called in to help are dismissed as exacting and inopportune guests.
That bronze represents innumerable chosen and favored souls; the glowing forge is but a pale image of the thousand afflictions inherent in every state of life; the skilled artisans are the creatures, the daily events, all the things used by Our Lord as blind instruments to mold the hero of grace into the image and likeness of the new Adam, Jesus Christ. The workshop is the home, the office, the world or the convent, the palace or the cottage, in short the transitory dwelling place whatever it may be, where daily duty and God’s Will have placed the temporary abode in which the soul believes, suffers and loves in this world, preparing for Eternity.
Unfortunately many richly endowed souls neither understand nor heed the solicitations of a God of Love, and few respond to His call. This is the more to be deplored as their very circumstances often give these favored souls the opportunity of being heroes and saints. They had but to take the one decisive step to reach the threshold of the forge where heroes are fashioned and there, without changing their vocation or dress, by merely sanctifying the heroism imposed on them by their state of life — that is to say by super-naturalizing the martyrdom of their daily life — many of these excellent Christians could be truly saints!
For instance, many wives and mothers — whether of high or low estate — tread the road of suffering by just leading their daily lives. Many of our Catholic businessmen drag out their lives in workshops and factories, hampered by a thousand obligations and almost crushed under the weight of imperative and unavoidable responsibilities. They eat the bread of weariness and their future is dark with sorrow and anxiety. Many of them are really leading heroic lives and bear the scars of a noble though unseen martyrdom. Day by day they are learning the sublime lesson of generosity and sacrifice. But what is still lacking to them, if they are to be clothed with a glory that is truly immortal and win the palm of a divine and saintly heroism, is a heart of love, a heart burning with charity. God would raise up many a saint if these crucified souls would but make Him their life, their all.
Such is the lesson Heaven is teaching us, at the present time, in the person of that sweet, enchanting Messenger of Merciful Love, that Star of the first magnitude of the Church and Carmel, Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus.
To be a saint it is not necessary to live in the strict enclosure of a monastery, to practise the austerity of Carmel, the abstinence and silence of Trappists. It is possible, though living in the world, to be detached from all, mortified, full of burning charity and without danger of presumption or illusion to aspire to and attain the height of perfection like Little Teresa. Why then are saints so rare, why do they not abound in the ranks of those who are not mere servants but soldiers and friends of the King of Glory?
Without justifying the ordinary easy going life, devoid of aspirations and high ideals, of so many who pride themselves on being the Master’s faithful friends, we may give many reasons explaining this scarcity. In most cases, we do not find ourselves in the presence of lack of good faith, nor willful resistance to Divine inspirations, nor absence of real and — to some extent — solid virtue. No, it seems that such an evil has frequently a quite different origin, that is, a mistaken conception of sanctity, an erroneous doctrine either about the essential principle of true and genuine sanctity, or the methods and ways of acquiring it.
Then arise logically many prejudices, illusions and errors, and lastly, as a conclusion to such faulty premises, fatal discouragement. It is certainly this which in general bolds us back on the way of perfection, and accounts for our finding so few saints in the very field where divine grace is poured in torrents.
I should like, dear readers, to stimulate your Christian piety and generosity, to launch you on outspread wings in quest of the Holy Mountain! But first you must be thoroughly convinced that sanctity is within the reach of all generous souls. It could not be otherwise, since it is our principal, nay, our sole duty, one which includes all the rest. “Unum necessarium.” If, therefore, it is a duty, then the ascension of the soul is certainly possible. “I can do all things in Him Who comforteth me and Who calls me to follow Him.”
A magnificent and conclusive proof of this is afforded by St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. This young Carmelite Nun is gently encouraging and transforming many souls that, despite the manifold graces they have received, painfully drag out their existence in the very Court of the King of Love. Being herself a lovely Flower in the garden of Our Lord, she is specially interested in the sanctification of consecrated souls and scatters all along her path the countless “roses” of signal graces.
Draw near her unhesitatingly and fearlessly, she is so little, so simple, so exquisitely sweet, and yet, by a mystery of grace, so compelling and irresistible in her way of calling and teaching us. Her apotheosis is invested with such extraordinary characteristics and her power and glory are astounding the world to such a point that, after reading her life, we may wonder how this Spouse of Christ succeeded in taking the Heart of Jesus and of the Church by storm, exciting a wonderful ovation throughout the whole world. She was only twenty-four, far too young to rank among the geniuses of the world, yet she was mature enough to be a great saint. “Jesus,” she cried, “open Thy book of life in which are written all the valiant deeds of all the saints. I should like to perform them all, only for Thee!” And Jesus, Who in His extreme condescension wrought the little miracle of the snow on the day of her clothing to satisfy the childlike whim of His Betrothed, replied to this outburst of love by the infallible voice of His Vicar, and Pius XI in setting Little Teresa a few years ago among the great Saints of the Church declared that “she was a miracle of grace and a prodigy of miracles!”
Thus it is not astonishing that legions of souls are charmed by her spirit. Let her exercise her gracious influence upon you. And if you fully comprehend the profound simplicity of her doctrine, if you value the peace and security she enjoyed in the path which she gracefully calls her “Little Way” I am certain that you will change your route as the Magi did when returning from Bethlehem.
And now under the beneficent influence of the Star of Carmel, prepare your hearts to receive the seed of life and sanctity. Souls of good will and athirst for truth are the richest and most fertile soil where ripe fruit cannot fail to abound. Thus the Crusade of Love which I preach for the honor and glory of the Divine Heart will find the most devoted apostles among the readers of these lines, since sanctity is always fertile as love is, and true apostolate may be defined as a life which radiates life, a love which sows and produces love. God grant that each of us may be, one day, like the Little Flower, a mysterious Well of Jacob, full to the brim of living waters which may quench the thirst for love of the Good Shepherd and His flock.
Saints Are Not Born Saints
Among the many pernicious misconceptions concerning sanctity the following is pre-eminent. The Saints, if we except true penitents like Mary Magdalen, were born saints. Nothing indeed is farther from the truth. This might certainly be said of geniuses and artists, since these spoilt children of nature do, in fact, receive at their birth an extraordinary wealth of natural gifts, which are developed and brought to perfection in due time by favorable circumstances and personal labor. Human genius and art always presuppose a privileged cradle. Thus Dante, Michael Angelo and Raphael, Columbus and Teresa of Avila received at birth an extraordinary rich nature. We all agree on this point. But a saint is not born a saint, and sanctity which is a sublime form of genius, must be and can be acquired. It is an undoubted fact that the supernatural beauty of a saintly soul is the work of grace together with the free, faithful and heroic co-operation of the will. If we except Mary Immaculate, all the saints have had to struggle in order to bring to fruition the talents entrusted to them. Moreover, many saints — perhaps most of them — only received at Baptism the ordinary amount of grace bestowed on the majority of Christians in that Sacrament. But by their extraordinary fidelity, their lawful ambition, and perseverance, they merited and irresistibly drew down upon themselves that extraordinary flood of celestial favors and graces which Our Lord never refuses to souls of unlimited generosity. We can therefore safely say, without any exaggeration, that they won the divine palm and halo by a heroic struggle.
Let us never weary of repeating that many saints only received the usual amount of grace necessary to work out their salvation. Thus if they died rich in merits we may conclude that all these treasures of virtues and rights to glory were acquired.
They did not spare themselves, and thus won the exceptional place which they hold on the thrones of Heaven and the Altars of the Church.
Saints are Tempted as We Are
There is a still more consoling thought. All the saints had to sustain a relentless struggle, more violent perhaps than ordinary Christians have to face. Like their Model and Master Jesus Christ they had to pass through the crucible of temptation which humbles, fortifies and exalts. Many beautiful souls waste time and energy and are hampered in their progress by discouragement because they feel the prick of their frail and fallen nature! Lift up your hearts! Temptation is nothing but a dangerous cross-road on your journey. Confidence and humility, peace and vigilance, will get you over the crisis, not only without any loss of virtue, but with an enormous gain of merit.
There are some biographies of saints which I should like to burn, not because I condemn the Saints but because, in part at least, I do blame the authors. Such writers present their heroes and heroines as being confirmed in grace from their birth, ever sailing on a peaceful sea, supreme masters of a nature totally subdued and transfigured not by hard-earned, praiseworthy victories, but by a privilege God has only granted to His Mother. You who feel discouraged in spite of your good will, read again and again the Gospels, meditate the writings of St. Paul where such an affirmation is thoroughly overthrown.
Were not Francis of Assisi, Benedict the Founder and Abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux great saints who, in order to subdue low instincts and a rebellious nature, had to roll themselves on brambles and thornbushes, or stand in a pond of icy water throughout a bitter winter’s night? You see, then, that temptation is no evidence of a lack of virtue; on the contrary, by fighting it unceasingly the saints covered themselves with glory.
Our temptations prove nothing against us. God in His infinite Wisdom and Mercy allows them to try our fidelity and give us an opportunity of meriting the immense glory He has in store for us. Remember what the Archangel Raphael said to Tobias: “Because thou wert acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptations should prove thee.” (Tob. xii. 13.)
Sanctity is Acquired by Degrees
When we read these faulty biographies, we might conclude that the saints, from the mere fact of their having been enrolled in God’s service, found themselves suddenly and without further trouble immune from all failings and weakness. They are depicted as having been perfect and consummate in virtue from the beginning, as if they had had to make but one bound to reach the goal. They seem to have put into practice in the supernatural life Caesar’s famous saying: “Veni, vidi, vici.” “I came, I saw, I conquered!” One is led to suppose that from the cradle to the grave they never touched the ground or experienced that weariness of soul and those waverings of heart by which all mortals are afflicted. They appear to have become perfect without effort or merit of their own, without stumbling on their road, or giving any signs of those involuntary shortcomings and imperfections which are inherent to our nature. Judging by such a criterion they may be considered as celestial beings and not creatures of flesh and blood.
This is not true, thank God, and the Church does not support any such theory. We may be certain that, specially at the beginning of the sublime ascent and even for long years, the Saints tasted more than once of the bitter chalice of salutary remorse. And more than once, too, above all at the outset of their glorious career, they had to correct and wash away with repentant tears, defects and negligences. It was only little by little, step by step that, struggling against the current, they acquired at last what we might call an angelic nature. And even then, acutely conscious of their own fragility they had to live a life of perpetual vigilance, always like a soldier on the alert, for fear of scorching their wings as did the disloyal angels, or of failing from a great height like the cedars of Lebanon. (Ezech. xxxi.) Grace, like nature, proceeds slowly, by steps wisely spaced; sanctity increases in an ascending progression just like a mysterious ladder, whose upper part will one day touch heaven, but whose point of support meanwhile is this miserable earth, as the fervent soul knows by experience.
Sanctity through the
Normal Track of Daily Life
We have now reached the most interesting and practical point of this important subject. According to some of these disconcerting books, all the saints were quite extraordinary beings; all of them lived apart from the simple, normal, trodden track, so that between them and ourselves there scarcely exists even a distant relationship. They all belonged to a superior and select caste to which there is no admission for ordinary Christians. The reading of such lives would necessarily lead to the conclusion that to become saints we must either abandon the simple path on which we tread and thus expose ourselves to the danger of illusion, or else definitely renounce all ideal of sanctity and risk the danger of never growing in virtue.
It is much to be feared that, faced with such an alternative, many would choose the second course; they would break their wings, and resign themselves to a life of mediocrity and routine.
God forbid that we should accept such an extremely dangerous theory. We can and must sanctify ourselves in the normal, simple, beaten track of our daily life, in the midst of the apparently commonplace cares of Nazareth.
“Omnis gloria ejus ab intus” (Ps. xliv, 14.) — “All her glory is from within,” the Church proclaims when singing the praises of Our Immaculate Queen and indeed her celestial beauty, her splendor — only surpassed by the greatness of her Son — were hidden in her heart and no exterior glory, no miracle ever revealed in Bethlehem or Nazareth the sweet majesty, the marvelous perfection and sanctity of the purest of creatures, our sweet Mother. Thus sanctity does not lie in the brilliant halo of stupendous miracles; the saint must be, and always is, like Mary, a miracle of grace “from within.” Moreover, the thirty years of hidden life led by the Word Incarnate in Nazareth, is an argument more than sufficient to dissipate in one breath the theory in favor of these “miraculous lives,” a theory whose primary danger is to exalt the imagination and to weaken the will.
Such biographies, inspired by popular piety combined with poetry and presented in the suggestive form of a pious legend, are edifying, I agree; but they must not be considered as the authentic lives of the saints. Indeed, we are not called to be the saints of a poem, we ought to be and can be real and true saints without any poetry, but in the prose of our daily life, ennobled and sanctified by an immense faith and love.
This certainly does not mean that there is not something “extraordinary” in many saints. Marvelous gifts have been freely bestowed upon many of them by Heaven in view of some very special mission entrusted to them. But let us not confuse, as is so often done, “exceptional favors and extraordinary paths” with sanctity in its essential element. If in Francis of Assisi or Margaret Mary, or the Cure of Ars, we were to suppress the marvelous and authentic halo; if we were to leave aside the ecstasies, visions and miracles to penetrate into their interior lives and only consider their souls, they would still keep the whole beauty and majesty of a saint.
The pedestal, or exterior glory, and the real saint are two distinct and separate elements. Moreover, how many souls there are who never had any pedestal at all. This was the case with Mary, the Mother of “fair” love. Yet she is the Queen of all the Saints. Jesus Himself is as much the God of Majesty in the cradle of Bethlehem, in the workshop of Nazareth, as on Thabor; as much Lord and King in the obscurity and annihilation of the Altar as in the glories of Paradise.
If then the “mansions” and the “ways” are many and varied, sanctity is one and invariable. God in His Wisdom and without consulting us has assigned to all a certain path. He has marked out our mansion, our vocation and our way. This way is always the best for each one of us or, to put it better, it is the only way. There, and not on the lofty heights of Thabor, we can and must sanctify ourselves. Let us have faith in the love of Him Who ordains everything for His Glory and our supreme good. Taken in this light, the lives of the saints will excite in us, not merely a fleeting enthusiasm and desire for holiness, but heroic deeds which will yield fruits of glory and merit Eternal Life.
These principles once established, fix your eyes with divine delight on the new star of Carmel, Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. With simplicity and eloquence, sureness of doctrine and fascinating smile, she traces for us her “Little Way” leading to the highest sanctity through the entire possession of a loving and greatly loved Jesus. Heaven is daily proving by a torrent of miracles not only that she had found the true road to sanctity, but that she became a great saint by following it. This “shower of roses,” to use her own expression, bears undoubted testimony that God has confided to her a truly providential mission, that of watching over His intimate friends, His priests and over all consecrated souls. It is not at all strange, therefore, that the brightest jewel of her crown is the vast throng of priests and missionaries who look upon her as the golden paten of their sacrifices, the loving guide and confidant of their interior life, the one who will provide souls for their ministry. “Come and walk in my path,” she seems to say; “love greatly, for God is Love; follow me!” She repeats the same words to the multitudes that approach and acclaim her. Let us now learn the gospel lesson which Jesus teaches us by means of His Little Spouse, the victim and apostle of His Merciful Love.
The most noteworthy teaching which we find in her life is that sanctity is certainly not the exclusive privilege of a particular class of souls. It is the right of all Christians and specially of the true friends of Jesus, whose vocation implies the right and the duty of aspiring to sanctity.
To see how marvelously the Little Flower embodied this doctrine, let us make a brief reference to her early childhood. Our heroine received from heaven a very noble heart, and her home — a true Bethany — was a real sanctuary in which her father and elder sisters earnestly cultivated the mind and soul of the future Carmelite.
In one sense, it is true, she was a spoilt child. But let us not judge superficially, lest we mistake what constitutes her true value. It is not so much the fine, rich casket we wish to study but the precious pearl within. If we break the rich alabaster box we shall be able to enjoy the hidden perfume of this soul so humble, yet so great.
If, then, Little Teresa received at birth an unusually large dowery, and was born rich, let us not forget that many souls — now perhaps in Hell — may have received as many and even more graces than were bestowed on her. Sanctity must not be estimated by the measure of love which is received, so much as by the love that is given in return.
We may assert, therefore, without any hesitation, that Little Teresa was not born a saint, but she became such by her extraordinary fidelity to grace and to the calls of Jesus. She willed to be a saint, she made it her purpose to be one, and in this will to follow step by step her crucified King she was virile and heroic!
There is no doubt that from her cradle she was destined for great things, and that God had great designs on her, but this did not necessarily make her a saint, for many souls frustrate and bring to naught the plans of Providence. If, therefore, Little Teresa is in deed and in truth “a saint” it is because she willed to be most faithful and was so. From her earliest years, docile to the solicitations of divine grace, she slowly and earnestly transformed her life through a great spirit of faith. Guided by this infallible light, she understood that, to be a saint, she ought to give her whole being to Jesus, and she did so without reserve. She herself declares: “I do not remember ever having refused Jesus anything.” To sum up: the characteristics of the Little Flower’s sanctity is a lively faith producing and developing immense generosity, this generosity keeping up the flame of Divine Love and the latter bringing about — day by day — a marvelous transformation.
It is frequently alleged as a palliative to remorse that the cause of our mediocrity and poverty is God’s parsimony on our behalf. Ah! this excuse turns against us and bespeaks our lack of courage to do violence to ourselves, as the saints have done. Instead of pleading our personal indigence and complaining of having received God’s gifts in a smaller measure than the saints, we should recognize with humility the meagerness of the love we give Him in return. In all truth God willed we should be saints, but we did not venture on the ascent of Calvary to which the Bridegroom invited us. “Come ye to the marriage. Come, for all things are ready.”
Who would guess that behind the baby features and sweet smile of the Little Saint there was the soul of a great warrior? Yet she wrote: “Our Lord has given me the grace to have no fear of conflict.” She was certainly too enlightened to hold the foolish opinion that saints are exempt from all struggles against temptations. Her own experience taught her that true love implies a ceaseless combat. She had no illusion of any kind in embracing with decision and enthusiasm the career of a saint. Had it been otherwise she would never have had the courage, at the age of fifteen, to submit to the severe Carmelite rule. She had such an exquisite, childlike sensibility, such an exuberant, ardent nature and such a loving heart! It is therefore evident that in order to undertake this ascent by such a path and to obtain the glorious triumph which today is officially recognized by the Church, she must have sustained with wonderful energy a deadly struggle against her delicate and impetuous nature.
She won the coveted palm of a moral martyrdom in a fair hand-to-hand combat, fighting with the weapons of mortification in the service of heroic love. The Church acclaims and extols a victory which was indeed bought at the high price of twenty years of conflict. To doubt this for a single moment would be wrong, for Little Teresa was not exempt from defects, especially in the beginning, nor did she herself ever try to conceal or disguise them. How spontaneously and humbly, for example, she speaks of what she prettily calls the “desertions” of her novitiate! But all this does not throw even the slightest shadow on the bright splendor of her soul. On the contrary, we feel her to be all the nearer, all the more accessible, more fully our own and when we are almost overcome by temptation she is at our side, bending over us like a true, affectionate sister and whispering her enrapturing and magic word: Confidence!
It was “Confidence” that gave the Little Flower the mysterious strength which brought her peace and joy in daily struggle. Her unbounded confidence, which we may almost term holy audacity, was the secret of all her victories. Only thus can we explain the fact that in but nine years of religious life she was able to complete the masterpiece which the Church today puts before us for our admiration and imitation. It is also the explanation of the “shower of roses,” the “rain of fire” announced by this marvelous Carmelite during her lifetime and now fulfilled as a proof that the secret treasures and mercies of the Sacred Heart of Jesus have been entrusted to her.
Let us, then, increase our courage and strengthen our will, so that we may abandon ourselves more fully and completely to the Merciful Love of Jesus. And this not so much in spite of our unworthiness and wretchedness, but rather because of our frailty and insignificance. Such is the true spirit and doctrine of this irresistible sower of confidence and love.
God is always admirable in His saints; but He seems to be even more so when He draws marvels out of nothingness, when He sets stars alight with a wisp of straw from the manger of Bethlehem, or when with a grain of sand He awakens and moves to its depths the moral world of souls. And this is precisely the case with St. Teresa.
Even since her canonization, she still is and always will be to her countless admirers “Little Teresa,” as the Holy Father, Pius XI himself, called her in his official discourse. On the altars, therefore, as formerly in the home and in the Cloister, she will continue to be little, like the child-model of the Gospel. It seems evident that heaven has molded her in this enchanting form to present her as the imitable and inspiring ideal, not only of numerous “little souls” but also of all, whether priests, religious, or fervent Christians in the world. She is persistently inviting us to follow her on that path of evangelical simplicity which is, together with her burning love, her outstanding characteristic. In order to understand the importance of this great and rare virtue of simplicity, read and ponder the life of Little Teresa and the magnificent summary made by Pope Benedict XV in his apostolic brief on the Spiritual Infancy of our saint.
There is so little simplicity in the world. No wonder then if, at first, it was a matter of astonishment to hear the praises of this little soul who was so unaffected and simple, so childlike in appearance. But, gradually, first a group and then a multitude of souls of every age, nationality and condition, began to feel attracted by the perfume of this “Rose,” stripped of its petals for the glory of Our Lord and in drawing near to her many met with the Divine Lover and consecrated themselves to Love!
This was the one sole object and desire of her life: to make Love loved, and in very truth she is realizing this in a stupendous manner. Shortly before her death she wrote: “My mission is to make God loved as I love Him.” But how did Little Teresa love Him? She herself gives the answer: “Madly!”
Yes, that love set her heart on fire, consumed and reduced it so to speak to ashes, but simply and mysteriously. There were no raptures, no visions, no ecstasies, for it was her great anxiety that in her “little path” there should be naught but ordinary acts “so that,” as she said, “all I do, little souls can also do.”
There is great wisdom in these humble words, since the moments we spend on Thabor — if we ever reach that summit — are few and sanctity does not consist in robing ourselves in a garment of life that shines before the eyes of men, but in keeping alight in our soul that love which will sanctify our daily task and common round. From the supernatural point of view nothing is little, nothing is insignificant. Our everyday life, simple and hidden like that of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth, can be, if lived in union with them, holy and in the highest degree divine. We are, therefore, greatly mistaken if we think the value of an act depends on the act itself. It is only worth the Love we put into it. Take the case of a highly praised and successful apostolate, but not inspired by great and noble love. The merit of such an apostolate cannot be compared with one day’s immolation offered to Our Lord in the chalice of the burning heart of the Little Flower. Her teaching on this most important point is summed up in this axiom of sound theology; “All is great where love is great.” If we live up to this, what is apparently monotonous and often wearisome in our existence disappears completely, and even in this our exile we enjoy a foretaste of heaven and of eternity.
The Little Flower has been universally acclaimed as the saint of love. She possessed all the ardor and impetuosity, the tenacity and confidence of that woman of the Gospel, whose love drew from the Heart of Jesus the words that have resounded through the centuries: “Dilexit multum” — “She hath loved much.” (Luke vii, 47.) Like Francis and Clare of Assisi she lived rapt in the contemplation of a God crucified for love! And just as those Saints brought about a strong reaction in the frivolous society of their times, so, too, in our days, the seraphic soul of this Little Queen of Heaven is attracting and transforming innumerable souls. Thousands of pilgrims meet daily at Lisieux to visit the tomb of the Little Saint. There they pour out their souls in hymns and supplications, which she rewards with countless favors and mystic lessons on love.*
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Here are some figures which attest the mysterious, irresistible attraction exercised by St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. At the translation of her venerable remains from the cemetery of Lisieux to the Chapel of the Carmel, a month before her glorification 50,000 people were present. The Basilica of St. Peter in Rome on the day of her Beatification contained 60,000. And at the Triduum celebrated in her honor at Lisieux in the August of that year, 100,000 persons attended, among them 3 Cardinals, 18 Archbishops and Bishops, and 900 Priests. The population of Lisieux is only 9,000.
What is more striking still is that the glorification of this Saint coincides with the epoch rightly called the “Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” when many souls thirsting for love are seeking to drink of the living water which pours from the pierced side of Jesus. The “Reign of the Sacred Heart” is but the reign of His Love in souls and in families. Like St. Margaret Mary — though following a different path — she had but one eager desire, one glorious vocation: to make Jesus better known and loved. And what a true Carmelite she was! Everything about her recalls to mind the noble simplicity, the virile courage, and the transverberated heart of the Eagle of Avila. There is nothing more in conformity with the Gospel than the Carmelite life as St. Teresa conceived it, and the same notes predominate in Nazareth and in Avila: child-like simplicity and burning charity.
Those who read the life of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus without discernment — and there are many such — imagine that it is nothing but a poem. They think and say that she lived her Carmelite life like a nightingale in a grove, singing of Our Lord’s tenderness to her and of her own gratitude to and love for Him. However she herself writes referring to her first steps in the religious life: “I met with more thorns than roses.… Jesus was asleep in my little boat.… I received no consolation either from heaven or from earth . … My soul has experienced every kind of torture.… I have suffered much on earth.”
Let us remember, too, that, on the day of her Profession, Little Teresa carried next her heart this prayer of heroic love which she had composed: “My Jesus, I ask that for Thy sake I may die a martyr. Oh! Give me martyrdom of soul or body. Or rather, my Jesus, give me both.” Her petition was granted. Distressing aridity and spiritual darkness tortured her for many years, while a cruel illness undermined her delicate constitution. Teresa was evidently accepted as a victim of Merciful Love and for nine years she was ground and crushed like purest wheat that she might be made into a “host” of prayer, silence and martyrdom in union with the Victim of the Altar. She lived a dying life to the glory of God and for the redemption and sanctification of souls. Many souls have been brought back to God by this little Carmelite of whom the venerable and memorable Pius X once said: “Little Teresa is the great Saint and the great missionary of modern times.” Yes, a missionary and a marvelous one; this she was and continues to be. Countless fervent souls as well as sinners are the fruit of her intense and constant immolation. Little Teresa is indeed renewing the apostolic feats of Teresa of Avila who is said to have saved as many souls, by her prayers and sacrifices, as St. Francis Xavier did by his labors and preaching.*
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Some time ago a group of ecclesiastical dignitaries put forward the idea of erecting a church and seminary in Rome, under the patronage of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, for the training of missionaries. When consulted on the matter, His Holiness Pope Pius XI. sent the following autographed answer: “We bless with all Our heart a project which is as holy as it is providential and well suited to a purpose which We cherish, one which is occupying Our mind greatly these days.”
By her double martyrdom of soul and body, the chalice of her heart was filled to the brim with that unfathomable ocean of graces which she is today pouring out on souls and on the Church. It is indeed true that the Little Flower is continuing and consummating in heaven the mission begun as the “Victim of Love” here, on earth.
However, it is easy to explain why so many imagine that her life was more beautiful than profound, more poetical than heroic. Just as with immense love and exquisite grace she knew how to cover with roses the Wounds of her Crucified Lord, so, too, she had the divine art of hiding with the roses and carnations of her smiles the sorrows and agonies of her heart. She was indeed a nightingale of Calvary but her heroic love changed Golgotha into Thabor.
Sursum corda! Lift up your hearts! and while contemplating this radiant star renew your confidence. St. Teresa retraces both the enchanting infancy of Our Lord and the blood-stained sacrifice of Calvary, emphasizing the lessons of the Infant Jesus and of Jesus Crucified: simplicity and mercy. Our modern world, with its exaggerated spirit of criticism and feverish attempts to exalt the rights of human wisdom and human science, greatly needs such Gospel teaching. Even pious souls are often bewildered and hesitate before a medley of theories good in themselves, but which they cannot always apply to practical everyday life. Thus, for instance, there are many complicated systems of spirituality but not enough simplicity and love; there are many methods for prayer and spiritual life, many schools of perfection and sanctity, but not enough spirit of faith to support and ennoble a daily hidden life. Much has been written on supernatural miracles and prodigies, but too little on self-denial in the home. As a natural consequence of these shortcomings, we find an artificial and momentary enthusiasm for corporal penances — which are looked upon as an end in themselves, rather than as a means to an end — but not sufficient generosity in the sacrifices inherent to our daily life. Lastly, there are many devotions, but not always the great and true devotion of a humble heart consumed by charity, a love stronger than death and simple as the Gospel of Jesus and as the Jesus of the Gospel.
By following these crooked paths, many treasures are squandered and much energy is lost, because no account is taken of Our Savior’s reply as to who should be greater in the Kingdo1n of Heaven. Taking a little child in His Divine Arms and caressing him tenderly Jesus said: “He who is the least among you, he is the greatest.” (Luke ix, 46-48.) And another time when a doctor of the law asked Him “which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered him: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” (Matt. xxii, 36-37; cf. Luke x, 27.)
How consoling it is to meditate on these sublime words of the Savior which the Church seems to repeat as a divine lesson to the multitude who throng round the venerable relics of St. Teresa: “I praise Thee, Father, … that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and prudent and didst reveal them to little ones” (Matt. xi, 25; cf. Luke x, 27.) — to this little one! Teresa of the Child Jesus understood and lived up to this divine teaching. Hence her one ambition is to guide us along her “little way” which is so practical and leads straight to God Who is always so near and within reach of all, whether in the Crib at Bethlehem, at Nazareth, or on the Altar. And when we have found Him, as Little Teresa did, then like her we must needs love Him even uno death.
Let us follow with docility and trust this bright star of Lisieux, so that even here below we may enjoy the company of a God Who is our Brother and our Friend, Whose Heart is both the “Way” to true sanctity and the inexhaustible “Fountain” of everlasting life.
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