I’ve only been to Lisieux once, it was a slightly strange mission. I went with an American friend who had brought a little portion of a beloved partners ashes to be scattered there. It was a little surreal making a visit where there was so much I wanted to see and learn, while at the same time searching for a suitable rose bed into which, with a simple ritual and prayer, we could fulfil a promise and complete a task.
The deceased friend had a lifelong devotion to St Thérèse. He often spoke of her ‘Little Way’ which was so supportive on his faith journey, while at the same time never failing to mention she was a Doctor of the Church with teaching so deep and profound it had influenced Popes and Bishops, and generations of believers. He would quote and then expand on sayings like “I understand clearly that through love alone can we become pleasing to God, and my sole ambition is to acquire it.”
Walking around the town of Lisieux that bright and beautiful autumn day, dropping into the museum, church and exhibitions of her life, and that of her parents and family, was both peaceful, informative and uplifting. We were enjoying our friendship, honouring a loss and being moved by the invitation to know God through sharing faith and love.
I had no idea then that I would now be Administrator in a group of parishes with such a strong attachment to St Thèrése. I find it very helpful to learn about her and from her. Reading back over some of the writings of Pope John Paul II from 1997 when he declared her a Doctor of the Church, it is obvious that he had a real sense of her relevance for the modern world and he was delighted that so many parishes in the developing world choose her as their patron. So, I guess for all of us we have the blessing that her spirit animates our lives and the responsibility to learn more from her teaching and put it into practice each and every day.
“It’s death? It’s life? I do not care! Jesus, my joy is to give you love.”