The secrets of the Kingdom of God are hidden from the learned and the wise, but are revealed to those who, like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (1873-1897), are little and humble. She is a Doctor of the Church, who received the knowledge of divine love from God and taught the world the “little way”, the Gospel way of holiness for all (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 19 October 1997, 2).
Thérèse experienced the grace of a complete conversion on Christmas Day 1886, and this enabled he to “run like a giant” along the way of perfection. Jesus, she writes, made her a fisher of souls; she desired to work for the conversion of sinners. Charity entered her soul; she forgot herself and wanted to please others. This is what filled her with happiness. She resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross, to quench Jesus’ thirst and was consumed herself with a thirst for souls. The more she gave Jesus to drink, the more the thirst of her soul increased.
As a Carmelite, Thérèse embarked “on the way of holiness, insisting on the centrality of love. She discovers and imparts to the novices entrusted to her care the little way of spiritual childhood, by which she enters more and more deeply into the mystery of the Church and, drawn by the love of Christ, feels growing within her the apostolic and missionary vocation which spurs her to bring everyone with her to meet the divine Spouse” (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 5).
She understood that she was simple, but that the closer she approached to God, the simpler she would become. She saw herself as a little flower that would blossom under the shadow of Jesus’ Cross. The tears and blood of Jesus were to be her dew, and her Sun was the face of Jesus veiled with tears. She practiced little virtues, serving her sisters in small ways, and offering up small sacrifices.
On the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, June 9, 1895, Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. She understood how much Jesus desires to be loved. Only love, she writes, makes us acceptable to God and this love is what she desired. The road that leads to God is the surrender of a little child who sleeps without fear in her Father’s arms. “Whoever is a little one, let him come to me” (Proverbs 9:4). For Thérèse, holiness was not something hard to attain. To attain sanctity, we need to be little and remain little.
The following year, on the night of Holy Thursday in 1896, she began to suffer an illness and experience a trial of faith that lasted until the day of her death, on September 30, 1897. Jesus, Thérèse understood, does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude. Jesus has no need of our works but only of our love. She saw that among Jesus’ own disciples, Jesus finds few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, few who understand the real tenderness of his infinite Love. She understood God’s love and that her vocation in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, was love.
The heart of Thérèse’s message, then, is the mystery of God who is Love. Through spiritual childhood, she experienced that everything comes from God, returns to him and abides in him, for the salvation of all, in a mystery of merciful love (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 8). Thérèse knew Jesus, loved him and made him loved with the passion of a bride. “She penetrated the mysteries of his infancy, the words of his Gospel, the passion of the suffering Servant engraved on his holy Face, in the splendor of his glorious life, in the Eucharistic presence” (John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 8).
On this day, we are all called to be simple and humble like children, to listen to God’s Word in Sacred Scripture and in prayer, and to welcome God’s merciful love into our lives as we run along the path to him.
Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.