Prelate: St. Thérèse Decried Assisted Suicide

UK Bids Goodbye to Little Flower Relics

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LONDON, OCT. 16, 2009 ( As England and Wales bid farewell to the St. Thérèse of Lisieux relics, ending a 28-day tour, the archbishop of Westminster is underlining the saint’s enduring message.

The relics of the «Little Flower» departed from England today, returning to Lisieux, France, via the Channel Tunnel.

The Diocese of Westminster reported that some 286,650 pilgrims visited the relics on the tour that began Sept. 16 and encompassed several towns.

In a farewell Mass on Thursday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster observed that this past month has been a «time of conversion» that has included «wonderful expressions of faith and love.»

«This outpouring of faith has baffled many people,» he said, which «secular commentators have not been able to make sense of.»

«So many people» have found «encouragement, perseverance and hope through the example and prayers of this most remarkable of young women,» the prelate affirmed.

For some people, he added, these days «have been a time of appreciating again the value of relics as an ancient expression of our faith in God’s transforming presence in the midst of our human failures.»

The archbishop asked: «Where do we go from here? What do we learn from Thérèse of our mission today?»

Moving forward

«In our mission efforts,» he said, «we need to be clear and reasoned in all we say and do.»

«We need to understand carefully the circumstances of our day and be well versed in contemporary affairs,» he added.

Archbishop Nichols noted that for St. Thérèse, the key to the mission was love. He quoted her words: «Finally I understood that love comprises all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places. […] in a word that it is Eternal. My vocation is love […]. Yes, I have found my place in the Church […]. In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love.»

These words, the prelate said, were written nine months before she died, «at a time of anguished pain and suffering.»

He continued: «They are born of abandonment to God, in darkness and desolation. They are, therefore, powerful testimony to the grace of God at work in our weakness, and not to the power of a self-centered romantic imagination.

«They are words to shape our mission today.»

The archbishop underlined the relevance of these words when «as a society, we struggle to understand and respond to the experience of terminal illness and approaching death.»

These moments, he added, seem «pointless» to some people who «seek the right to exercise the only solution that is within their own power: that of killing themselves and having others free to assist them to do so.»

Pain and futility

Archbishop Nichols affirmed that the saint «lived through those same moments,» also experiencing «suicidal thoughts of ending the pain and the overpowering sense of futility.»

He continued: «She warned the sister who cared for her that when she had patients who were ‘a prey to violent pains’ she must not ‘leave them any medicines that are poisonous.’ She added, ‘I assure you it needs only a second when one suffers intensely to lose one’s reason. Then one would easily poison oneself.'»

The prelate affirmed that despite this tension, St. Thérèse «argues, as we do today, that reason, in the context of our relationships, must acknowledge life as a gift and not an individual possession and, at the same time, embrace death when it comes.»

He stated: «We live in a time in which affectivity and love itself seem to be commercialized and relationships subject to calculations of benefit and loss, and used accordingly.

«She reminds us that no cost is too high for God’s love to meet, and that in love for us God has abandoned every calculation of worth and reward.»

The saint invites us now to practice «love in every relationship,» and to carry out this mission «in every action, at every moment,» the archbishop noted.

To bear fruit in this mission, he said, we must live close to God, «we must abide in him, remain part of him, be with him one vine.»

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