Sunday, September 20, 2009

St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

The Community doing the laundry 1895

The Community in the fields July 1896

Here we see the Doctor of the Church, St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, doing the laundry and working in the fields.

At the same time she was doing and writing what Pope John Paul II called “her doctrine [which] is at once a confession of the Church's faith, an experience of the Christian mystery and a way to holiness.”

For some reason it is difficult to imagine other Doctors like Saints Jerome, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in similar scenes.

Not long after she died on 30 September 1897, Pope Pius X declared that she was "the greatest saint of modern times".

Benedict XV, praised the knowledge of divine realities which God granted to Thérèse in order to teach others the ways of salvation

Pius XI underscoring her special divine enlightenment and described her as a teacher of life. He considered Thérèse of Lisieux the "Star of his pontificate” after he had beatified and canonised her.

Pius XII said that Thérèse penetrated to the very heart of the Gospel with her doctrine

John XXIII showed his devotion to the Saint and explained the relationship between the doctrine of the Saint of Avila and her daughter, Thérèse of Lisieux

Paul VI extolled Thérèse's example in the search for God, offered her as a teacher of prayer and theological virtue of hope, and a model of communion with the Church, calling the attention of teachers, educators, pastors and theologians themselves to the study of her doctrine

Pope John Paul II declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1997

Why is it then that the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to England and Wales has led in some quarters to sheer incomprehension and outright hostility? There have been articles of sheer vituperation, ridicule and even calls for the outright banning of such demonstrations of religious piety.

Some have disguised their attacks calling it outdated “medieval superstition” and other spurious grounds.

Yet on television we see live post mortems and there is no similar reaction. We also see the virtual canonisation of celebrities and no adverse comment is made, The reactions to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and more recently of Michael Jackson for some reason come to mind.

There is something going on here which is nothing to do with the abuse of relics prior to the Reformation and a fear that a similar abuse is in danger of happening again.

It has always been made clear since the time of St Jerome that there is no worship involved in the veneration of saints and their relics. In his Letter to Riparius, St. Jerome (d. 420) wrote in defence of relics:
"We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are." (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907)

St Augustine and St Gregory criticised contemporary abuses in relics. The Council of Trent made it crystal clear that abuses were not to be tolerated.

Is it something to do with the idea of a twenty something young woman devoting herself to God at an early age and whose thought and practice was during her life, and after her death and today and for the future relevant and of the utmost importance ?

For the importance of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, there is nothing better than to read two works of Pope John Paul II:

His Homily on Sunday, 19 October 1997 for the Proclamation of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a doctor of the universal Church. See:

His Apostolic Letter of 19th October 1997 Divini Amoris Scientia (The Science of Divine Love) proclaiming St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a doctor of the universal Church. See:

For those who want more photographs of the Saint, see the official website of the Sanctuary at Lisieux has many photographs of St Thérèse at