Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

The relics of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face in York Minster last year

Last year over one quarter of a million people in England and Wales venerated at various sites the relics of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. This was despite widespead consternation, mockery and criticism.

Her relics were on view on her feast day last year in the Anglican Minster of York. It was a great mark of respect and hospitality as well as reverence. It was a great sign of how much relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in England and Wales has progressed.

In his Apostolic Letter proclaiming Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church (Divini Amoris Scientia), Pope John Paul II said:

"9. The primary source of her spiritual experience and her teaching is the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. She herself admits it, particularly stressing her passionate love for the Gospel (cf. Ms A, 83v). Her writings contain over 1,000 biblical quotations: more than 400 from the Old Testament and over 600 from the New.

Despite her inadequate training and lack of resources for studying and interpreting the sacred books, Thérèse immersed herself in meditation on the Word of God with exceptional faith and spontaneity.

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit she attained a profound knowledge of Revelation for herself and for others.

By her loving concentration on Scripture - she even wanted to learn Hebrew and Greek to understand better the spirit and letter of the sacred books - she showed the importance of the biblical sources in the spiritual life, she emphasized the originality and freshness of the Gospel, she cultivated with moderation the spiritual exegesis of the Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments.

Thus she discovered hidden treasures, appropriating words and episodes, sometimes with supernatural boldness, as when, in reading the texts of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 12-13), she realized her vocation to love (cf. Ms B, 3r-3v). Enlightened by the revealed Word, Thérèse wrote brilliant pages on the unity between love of God and love of neighbour (cf. Ms C, 11v-19r); and she identified with Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper as the expression of her intercession for the salvation of all (cf. Ms C, 34r-35r)."

This aspect of Saint Thérèse`s life and work reminds us of the other great Doctor of the Church whose memorial has just been celebrated: Saint Jerome. Indeed "The Little Flower" died on 30th September 1897, the Feast day of St Jerome.

It was the Study of Scripture which Pope Benedict emphasised in his General Audience on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 when he discussed the Life of St Jerome

He said:

"What can we learn from St Jerome?

It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ".

It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture.

This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one.

We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God.

Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church.

The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ's Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us.

We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life."

Jean Fouquet (1420 - 1477/1481)
St John on the Island of Patmos
From Le Livre d'Heures d'Etienne Chevalier
Ms71-folio 1 recto
Musée Condé, Chantilly