Monday, October 01, 2012

Obligatory Saint Teresa Moment

Today, the reformed Roman Calendar commemorates the feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the young French Carmelite nun, known by her full "name in religion" as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and popularly as The Little Flower of Jesus. (In the traditional calendar, she is remembered on the third of this month, so if you're reading this now, you're still current, sort of.) She wrote an autobiography, The Story of a Soul, and numerous letters to family members and to various missionary priests around the world. There has been infinitely more written of her than by her.


Preconceived notions of saints were up to her time, that heroic virtue was something out of reach, attainable by those who did great things, whether to critical acclaim, or through the crown of martyrdom. Thérèse turned these notions completely off their collective axis. It was through her example, and a very short life -- she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 -- that the path to sainthood could be found in the smallest things of everyday life.

Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God's arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because "only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet."

It was her uniqueness, and arguably, various quirks attributed to her personality, that made her accessibility, and thus her cult of devotion, grow so quickly, that she was canonized in 1925, only 28 years after her passing. In 1969, her feast was moved to the first of October, the day after her dies natalis (birth into heaven), so as not to conflict with the feast of Saint Jerome.

It should be noted that her parents, Louis and Zellie Martin, were both beatified in 2008 by Pope John Paul II. On a final note, “Saint Teresa” is also the title of the opening track to the 1995 Blue Gorilla/Mercury album by Joan Osborne entitled “Relish.”

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