Posted by: catholicrelics | October 17, 2009

Final Prayer

Loving Father,

We thank you for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse to our country.

We ask you to draw us more deeply into your love

And to fill us with confidence in your mercy.

Help us to become, like St Thérèse, love at the heart of the Church.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

Who lives and reigns, forever and ever,

Amen.

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 17, 2009

Statistics

Total number of pilgrims who have visited the relics of St Thérèse in England and Wales:

Portsmouth 4,500

Plymouth 3,000

Taunton 1,800

Birmingham 11,000

Coleshill 3,000

Cardiff 4,400

Filton 6,000

Liverpool 17,000

Salford 30,000

Manchester University Catholic Chaplaincy 2,000

Preston Carmel 2,000

Lancaster 8,000

Newcastle 5,000

Darlington Carmel

York Minster 10,000

Middlesbrough 15,000

Leeds 14,000

Kirk Edge Carmel (Sheffield) 3,000

Nottingham 8,000

Walsingham 5,000

Oxford 6,200

Gerrards Cross 2,000

Aylesford 17,000

Kensington Carmelite Church 10,000

Notting Hill Carmel 3,500

Wormwood Scrubs 250

Westminster Cathedral 95,000

286,650 pilgrims

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 17, 2009

St. Therese of Lisieux in hospital, St. John’s Wood, London



18, originally uploaded by Catholic Church (England and Wales).

St. Therese of Lisieux made a stop … at St. John’s and St. Elizabeth’s hospital, St. John’s Wood, London.

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 17, 2009

Mass for the Farewell to the Relics of St Thérèse

The Mass for the farewell to the relics of St Therese was presided over and preached by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

“Love is the key.. Love seasoned by truth..”

Over the past 28 days, thousands upon thousands of people have thronged to pray in the presence of these precious relics of St Therese. Today, as we prepare to return these relics to Lisieux, we thank God for the graces and blessings we have received. This has been a time of such wonderful expressions of faith and love in which we have been strengthened and filled with joyful encouragement.

This outpouring of faith has baffled many people. Some secular commentators have not been able to make sense of it all. I have found their incomprehension quite intriguing. Other reports have simply described what was there to be seen: so many people finding encouragement, perseverance and hope through the example and prayers of this most remarkable of young women. But surely they can see, unless they refuse to do so, her testimony to the spiritual dimension of human living, a dimension which takes us beyond that which can be measured and lifts human reasonableness to new levels, and flowers in heroism, sacrifice and perseverance.

For many, these days have been a time of conversion; for some they 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 sense of uneasiness felt even by some Catholics can itself be a grace, prompting us to trust more readily in the closeness of God to each of us.

The real meaning of relics is, of course, that they are but a sign, a token of the holy life of this much-loved saint. They are God’s way of opening our hearts to his unwavering love. We do well to draw all the encouragement we can from this time of grace.

Today we ponder on what happens next. Where do we go from here? What do we learn from Therese of our mission today? How do we in our turn, speak of the Gospel to this society of ours?

We must remember that St Therese is the patron saint of the missions. What an irony that she who never left the cloister of her convent became the patron of every mission, of every ‘sending out’! Of course we know of her dream of being a missionary, expressed in the words: ‘I would like to travel the earth preaching your name…I would be a missionary right up to the end of time.’ And we have recalled her wish that she could spend eternity doing good on earth. How true that is and how grateful we are!

There is a profound sense of purpose running through the whole of the life of St Therese. She said that her single desire was ‘to love Jesus and to make him loved.’ This was her mission statement.

Can it be ours too? Can we, today, truly love Jesus and make him loved?

Clearly, love is the key. Of course, in our mission efforts 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. Yet Therese teaches us the ancient Christian message: without love all our efforts are little more than a ‘gong booming or a symbol clashing.’(1 Cor 13.1)

She had her own way of expressing this: ‘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.’ Then she cried out, ‘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.’

As often as we listen to these words, well-known and inspiring as they are, we need to remember that they were written in October 1896, nine months before she died. They were written, then, at a time of anguished pain and suffering. They are not the words of a young romantic, day-dreaming of an ideal future. 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-centred romantic imagination. They are words to shape our mission today.

These words speak directly to us today when, as a society, we struggle to understand and respond to the experience of terminal illness and approaching death. In the shortened perspectives of many, such moments are pointless and actually rob life of all its meaning. Therefore some 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.

St Therese lived through those same moments. She too experienced suicidal thoughts of ending the pain and the overpowering sense of futility. 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.’

So Therese too lived the tension that many experience today, the tension between her individual, autonomous choice, on the one hand, and, on the other, the bonds which bound her to her community, to her family, to those who cared for her, to life. She 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.

This is so because the full expression of such reasoning is love seasoned by truth: the bonds of love which truly tie the dying person to those who care; the love which recognises the true impact on others of every personal action; the love of life itself, as the ultimate gift, and as stretching beyond the immediate horizons to the eternity of God’s presence.

Here we see that St Therese, indeed, proclaims the Gospel for our times.

For we live in a time of fragile and disposable relationships whereas she fashioned bonds with her sisters and with the Lord that grew stronger through every trial.

We live in a time in which affectivity and love itself seem to be commercialised 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.

We live in a time when each individual must impose himself or herself on every relationship, fashioning it in his or her own likeness. She, on the other hand, teaches us that we find ourselves by living in and through our relationships, and that we find ourselves fully only by abandoning ourselves into the loving embrace of Christ.

In our desire for individual autonomy, we push relationships out of the heart of our living. But she shows us clearly that neither life nor death, certainly not death, has any enduring meaning beyond our belonging to each other and to the Lord.

The practice of love in every relationship is the heart of our mission, a mission carried out in every action, at every moment. And our mission is here. ‘Make love real where you live’. That is her invitation.

Hidden in this invitation, and making it come to life, is a single question, addressed to every one of us who wish to share in her mission. The question is this: Do you really want to be close to God? Do you really want to live close to the Lord? Only when we answer with an unequivocal ‘Yes!’ will our mission be fruitful. As messengers of Christ, it is not effectiveness we seek; it is fruitfulness. And to bear that fruit we must abide in him, remain part of him, be with him one vine.

Now, as we continue with this Mass, we prepare for the moment in which these precious relics will leave. Again, we open our hearts to the Lord that he may guide our every moment, and fill the reservoir of emptiness within each of us. Then we will be able to accept our mission, our task, in this land today. If we are renewed in this sense of purpose, then these wonderful days of this pilgrimage will bear fruit indeed.

Amen.

+Vincent Nichols

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 14, 2009

“Look beyond the relics to where St Thérèse is pointing”

Young People’s Evening Liturgy

Welcome and introduction by Mgr John Armitage – Brentwood Diocese

Welcome to Westminster Cathedral this evening as we begin this all night vigil of prayer to God our loving Father, in the presence of the relics of St Teresa of the Child Jesus, together with young people from across the three Dioceses of London. As we come towards the end of this momentous visit of the St Therese to our country it is only fitting that the last night before she returns home is spent in the company of young people in vigil and prayer. St Teresa being such a young saint, is assuredly your saint and inspiration, giving us an insight into God’s love from the experiences of a young person.

You will have come here for a range of reasons tonight, whatever this might be, you will find a clear and simple message in the life of this young woman; “God loves you and it is possible in the ordinary everyday things of life, to respond to that love.” She called this her “Little Way” to do small things with great love.

How should we understand the practice of the Church in venerating the relics of saints? There is a saying “When the finger points to heaven the fool looks at the finger” Relics are a human reminder and “pointer” that the person remembered is showing us a road that they followed in life, that ultimately led them to heaven, so we can be encouraged by the legacy and story of their life. Look beyond the relics to where St Therese is pointing, she is showing us a way to live our daily lives, in an accessible and straightforward way, as we shall see during the course of this liturgy. What we know about her is mainly through what she has written, because of these writings in 1997 Pope John Paul II made her a Doctor of the Church. Doctors of the Church are people of great faith whose teaching gives a new insight into the mystery of God’s love. She shows us the importance of the presence of young people in the life of the Church. Make sure in addition to your visit here tonight that you read some of her writing in the days to come and experience first hand the power of the testimony that has moved countless people since her death.

In her Autobiography she quotes St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians “I will show you a way that is better than any other. What was it? He explains that of all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect, without love, they are absolutely nothing, love is the way, as it leads us directly to God. She continues “beside myself with joy I cried out; “Jesus my love! I’ve found my vocation and my vocation is love!”

It is curious that she was searching for her vocation as a Carmelite Nun, was this not her vocation? She realised that there is a deeper “call from God” that gives meaning and purpose to every aspect of the particular and daily expressions of our lives whether we are a priest, a nun a married person or a single person, that is to seek God’s will each day. In each moment of the day God’s grace reveals itself to us. She tells us she has “found her vocation” when she discovers the God given meaning in her life, her vocation to love. It is the strength in each moment of each day, to embrace the grace of that moment and to find even in the most intense suffering, God’s loving presence.

Follow her example and in your youth truly seek your vocation in life by daily seeking to do God’s will. This constant presence takes away fear of the past and anxiety over the future. Listen to her own words

“We are quite wrong to think of sorrows and trials that the future may bring; it is, as it were, meddling with Divine Providence. We who run in the way of love must never torment ourselves about anything. If I did not just suffer minute by minute, it would be impossible for me to be patient; but I see only the present moment, I forget the past, and I take good care not to anticipate the future. If I grow disheartened, if sometimes I despair, it is because I have been dwelling on the past or the future.”

A saint is a man or woman who is close to God and who makes God real and close to others. Tonight we are close to God in his great Cathedral, with an ordinary young women, who did extraordinary things for God, because she opened herself to God’s will each day discovering the meaning of her life. May we take courage to follow in her steps, by embracing God’s love and grace each day, in the ordinary everyday events, doing small things with great love!

A saint gives us a clear message “God’s love is the same to each and everyone of us and is only limited by the degree to which we are open to receive it.”

As we enter into our vigil of prayer let us ask St Therese to pray for us that we may open our hearts to the Lord this evening.

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 14, 2009

Mass with Bishop Patrick Lynch

St. Thérèse – Patroness of the Missions
Capitular Mass at Westminster Cathedral October 14th.

One of the people who gave courage to Thérèse especially during the final months of her life was the French missionary priest and martyr – Fr. Theophane Vanard. He was a missionary in Vietnam who suffered persecution, torture and eventually a cruel death by beheading in 1861. He was, however, a tremendous inspiration to Thérèse. He was a courageous and dedicated priest but also his letters portrayed him as being a very human and very happy person. This especially appealed to Therese. He was such an inspiration to her that she had his portrait pinned to the curtains of her cell during her final months. A few months before she died she composed a poem in which she wrote:
“To suffer for God seemed to you a delight
Smiling you knew how to live and how to die.”

Thérèse wanted to be part of the great French missionary effort of the second part of the 19th century and she would have liked to accept the invitation of the Carmel in Saigon to be a part of a new foundation in Hanoi. While this was not to be Thérèse was still very much part of that missionary endeavour through her prayers and support for missionaries. This support is especially illustrated in the letters she wrote to and received from a young French missionary in China Fr. Adolphe Roullard and an aspiring missionary Maurice Belliere.

The situations Adolphe and Maurice faced were completely different. Adolphe was ordained a priest on September 8th 1890 – exactly the same day Thérèse was professed. He was facing the challenges of being a missionary in China
– the challenge of learning a new and difficult language,
– the challenge of understanding a new culture and
– the reality of physical danger even possible death.

Maurice on the other hand was facing the internal struggle of self doubt. “Was he good enough to be a missionary?” “Had he the qualities necessary – the courage, the faith, the dedication – to be a missionary?” Finally, on October 4th 1897 he wrote his last letter to Thérèse saying that he had left for Algeria “Your brother” he said “is a missionary since yesterday.” He wrote the letter, not realizing that Thérèse had died, on the very day she was buried.

Thérèse wrote to Adolphe and Maurice with warmth and wisdom, she prayed for them, she encouraged them but most important of all she helped them to trust in God’s love and to abandon themselves to God’s love. In a very practical way she had become their guide on their spiritual and missionary journey. Thérèse understood instinctively that all mission is rooted in God’s love. Mission is first and foremost about knowing God’s love and secondly about living and giving witness to that love and proclaiming that love to the world.

This is the point Matthew makes in this evening’s Gospel. In answer to the question about the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus stresses the importance of those who are usually considered the least. Being the least – being like a little child – is the requirement for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven while welcoming the least is the criteria for mission. In other words we can’t show God’s love unless we know God’s love.

Thérèse’s deep desire to know God’s love developed early in her life and continued throughout her life. She grew up within a loving family with a strong sense of being loved by God. Through the separations, the sickness and the sufferings she experienced, she learned to trust in God’s love but also to abandon herself to God’s love. For Religious in France in the second half of the 19th century the taking of vows was often seen as a call to offer oneself as a victim to Christ. Thérèse came to understand that in all dimensions of life and in all aspects of life, loving involves suffering. It was especially through the intimacy and indeed the trials of prayer that this communion with and trust in God flourished so much so that towards the end of her life prayer both in times of trial and joy was “a simple aspiration of the heart, a glance to heaven, a cry of recognition and love”. Every missionary who has ever struggled with learning a new language, learning about a new culture or with the poverty and pain of his or her people can identify with the importance of trusting in God.

Knowing that God loved her, however, was the prelude to allowing God to love through her. For Thérèse her vocation to love was both very practical and totally universal. She felt called to show that love in the little things and situations of life like being kind to a difficult sister in the community, like being diligent in all her duties at Carmel, like performing simple acts of penance. Although Thérèse never left Carmel she also felt called to proclaim that love to the remotest islands of the earth. Her mission to proclaim God’s love transcended the boundaries of culture, class and country so much so that she continues today to proclaim God’s love through her words and her writings. She is indeed a worthy Patroness of the Missions teaching us – as she did Adolphe and Maurice – how to know and contemplate God’s love, showing us how to live that love and inspiring us to proclaim that love.

As we come to the end of a remarkable four weeks and prepare for Mission Sunday we thank God for the way she has led us to know God’s love a little more and we now ask God to help us to live and proclaim that love a little better – helping us in turn to be better missionaries ourselves.

+Pat Lynch

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 14, 2009

Do not neglect the gift that is in you

Vigil with Allen Hall Seminarians before St Therese’s Relics

All Night Vigil for The Year of Priesthood opened by Bishop Bernard Longley

As we gather together in Vigil tonight in the presence of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux our thoughts and prayers have as their particular focus something very familiar to the young Thérèse Martin – that is the reality that in every generation our Lord calls people to particular vocations within the life of the Church. We are blessed that this remarkable Saint’s relics are with us in Westminster Cathedral during the Year for Priests and that the Seminarians and Staff of our Seminary at Allen Hall are keeping prayerful watch during this night.

Thérèse had a very strong sense of what it is to be called by God to a life of prayer and dedication. After the death of her mother in 1877, when Thérèse was only four years old the family moved to Lisieux. Here she became aware of the prayerful witness of the Carmelite Sisters and it was here that her own sense of vocation grew. Thérèse was nothing if not determined about how to respond to God’s call and she perceived it with astonishing clarity from the earliest age.

This clarity of vision on the part of Thérèse testifies to the depth of her prayer-life and her ability to listen to God speaking in the depths of her being so that she could discern clearly what He was asking of her. As a consequence she had the temerity to badger her own Bishop and even asked the Pope to intervene on her behalf. Against all the odds she was received into the Carmel at Lisieux and her life as a Carmelite began when she was only fifteen.

For us as Seminarians and as priests the example of St Thérèse offers important insights into the discernment of our vocation and the need to renew our understanding and commitment frequently throughout our lives. The events of life will from time to time throw opportunities and challenges before us. These moments invite us to re-assess the direction that life is taking and to re-examine our initial response as well as the enduring impact of the decisive commitment we made to the priestly calling and that the Church made to us at Ordination.

It is chiefly in prayer that we hear most clearly the voice of our Lord and where we can find the necessary wisdom and resources to answer him with generosity and courage. We do need the insights of others – our own friends and those to whom the Church has given the responsibility of guiding and supporting us – but it is in prayer that we can understand those insights most clearly and find within ourselves the right response.

St Thérèse has influenced countless men and women in their vocational choices since her death in 1897 at the age of twenty-four and especially since the Church recognised the holiness of her life and example at her Canonisation in 1925. She has also helped many people to take that decisive step to join the Catholic Church in full communion with us and with her. I am pleased to recall with gratitude tonight the impact of St Thérèse on my own mother’s decision to become a Catholic the year that I was ordained priest. Long before she was received into full communion with the Catholic Church she had a particular devotion to the Little Flower and St Thérèse always remained an influence for good and a guide towards truth.

During these weeks preparing for the visit of St Thérèse’s relics contemporary photographs of the saint have once again familiarised us with the look of her face. I am more and more struck by the child-like frankness of her expression and the evident beauty of holiness about her appearance. This is as true of the earliest photographs of her as a child as it is of those images recording the final days of her illness and frailty.

Her look is intelligent and searching, compassionate and above all open in a way that communicates readily. It is clear to me from the photographs of Thérèse why she should be patroness of the Church’s missions – in a simple and direct way her look communicates faith and draws us into an interior world where God is to be found. And there is a profound joyfulness that sustained her at the deepest level, even when all the consolations of faith had abandoned her and she continued to believe as an act of the will.

St Thérèse reminds us that as priests our vocation is sacramental, so that in all that we say and do and in the manner of our actions and our speech others should be able to discern the presence of Christ the High Priest. Like her we must try to shape our lives from within so as to reflect the reality of Christ’s priesthood in a needy world.

Each one of us will bring our own particular petitions to be united to the intercessory prayer of St Thérèse. But together let us ask her to strengthen the resolve of those who are contemplating a call to priesthood at this time and to inspire all our Seminarians to follow their calling, faithfully obedient to the voice of Christ. Let us pray for any of our brothers in the priesthood who are struggling because of temptations, problems or ill health. And as we listen to the words of our Lord: do not neglect the gift that is in you, let us give thanks with all those who celebrate their special anniversaries of ordination this year, or who are simply grateful day by day that the Lord has entrusted us with the gift of the priesthood.

St Thérèse of Lisieux…..Pray for us.

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 13, 2009

Ecumenical Service

Ecumenical Service, Bishop George Stack, Guest Preacher Rt Rev’d Graeme Knowles, Dean Of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 13, 2009

We thank God for this time of tutoring

Capitular Mass of St Edward the Confessor

Archbishop Vincent Nichols presided and preached

Homily from the Mass

In the National Gallery, there is a painting which represents the highest achievements of English Mediaeval art. It is the Wilton Diptych and it stands as a reminder of a time when culture and life in this country were profoundly Catholic. But that, along with much of the art of that time, has long gone although we treasure these works which still inspire us today.

In this famous altar piece we can see St Edward the Confessor, whose feast we keep today. He was King from 1042 to 1066, a time a change and upheaval in this land. For 300 years he was the official Patron Saint of England.

In the painting he is portrayed holding a precious ring which, legend tells us, he had given to a beggar in a characteristic act of generosity. It was miraculously returned to him and became the symbol of his holiness.

Edward was no pious puppet manipulated by ruthless barons. As King he had to steer a path between opposing forces and serve the unity of his country, even as it was breaking down. The foundations of his life were prayer and practical kindness, to the extent that he was quickly recognised by the Church as a true Confessor of the faith.

In his famous sermon on St Edward, Mgr Ronnie Knox spoke of him as the builder of Westminster Abbey, describing it as a symbol of the King’s life which was ‘built from little acts of kindness of sacrifices of self’ just as ‘stone by stone and arch by arch rose the Abbey Church of Westminster.’

Today his relics lie so nearby, in Westminster Abbey, where once they attracted great crowds, just as today, in this Cathedral, do the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. Two great saints, one a King, the other a young Carmelite nun, separated by 850 years, yet bearing the same testimony: that God is close to us, that Jesus is pure love and that we are invited to be close to him. They both teach us how to respond to that invitation, through daily actions done out of love, for such actions ‘are the ones that charm his heart’.

Together these saints bear a great witness in our country today. They teach us about the faithfulness of God, who longs to embrace each one of us in our strengths and especially in our weaknesses. They show us the importance of the things of the spirit in our self-understanding, witnessing together to the essential spiritual character of human living, reminding us that if we pursue our hopes and dreams without a profound openness to God, they will remain unfulfilled. And, for King Edward, as for St Therese, this openness to God is expressed in the daily practice of prayer.

We thank God for the gift of the presence of these precious relics here today. They help us to be close to Therese so that she can teach us her way of prayer. She calls us to a deeper closeness to the Lord. From her we learn about intimacy with Jesus, holding him as our first love and as our best lover.

She wrote: ‘For me prayer is an outburst of the heart, a simple gaze directed towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love in trial as well as in joy. It is something wonderful and supernatural that expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.’

These are words we can all understand: clear, direct, heartfelt and heart-filling. These are words we too can put into practice.

Again she teaches us in words spoken towards the end of her life: ‘I’m praying, I’m saying nothing to him, I’m just loving him.’

The astonishing directness and simplicity of these words should not mislead us. Therese may well have been, in her childhood, a ‘little princess’ but she grew to be a tough and formidable young woman.

Please remember she lived in an age of the spirit of Jansenism, which over-emphasised the strictness of God’s judgement and the difficulties of getting to heaven. This prevented many people from ever seeing God as a loving Father. Yet Therese had the strength and the grace to develop a radically different way of viewing God: as our Father who desires nothing more than to pour out the depths of his love on each one of us, and who did so in Jesus.

Today this strict view of God has not entirely disappeared from our hearts. We also face another obstacle to the intimacy with God for which we long. Today God has become a distant reality who touches our lives, if at all, only to interfere with our personal freedom, the most jealously guarded treasure of the individual today.

St Therese shows us that only in humility and with a boundless trust in God can we overcome this sense of distance. Humility and trust directly oppose our pride and our self-sufficiency. This is the key to her famous ‘Little Way of Spiritual Childhood.’ Every day is an opportunity to follow this little way. Every action, when it is done with humility and love, becomes a step drawing us nearer to the Lord. And such actions are supported and inspired by prayer.

She insists that this way of prayer and intimacy is not difficult. She says: ‘I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers…I do as a child who has not learned to read, I just tell our Lord all that I want and He understands.’

Yet there were books she constantly looked at: the books of the Bible. She said: ‘In my helplessness, Holy Scripture comes to my aid: in the Bible I discover a solid and very pure nourishment. But it is especially the Gospels which sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul. I am constantly discovering in them new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings.’

In this too we can follow her way for, in our day, the Gospels texts can always be in our hands, and we can ponder them together, repeat their phrases in our hearts, as freely as we wish. We do well to do so.

But as you all know, when Therese speaks of her helplessness she knows exactly what she is speaking about. She suffered: loneliness, heart-breaking bereavement, long debilitating illness, a slow painful death. She has been in the darkest of places. No wonder the soldiers in the trenches of the First Word War carried her picture to comfort and strengthen them. No wonder, throughout this pilgrimage of her relics, people have come to her with their burdens and tragedies, not looking for any miracle other than the strength to bear their share of the cross with a love and perseverance like hers. What we learn from her is that it is precisely when we are torn open in distress and pain that the love of God can fill us and transform our lives.

Her unique experience of the Lord’s unwavering, accepting love was given to her precisely at the moments of her extreme helplessness. This is her lesson for us: that the Lord has this same unwavering love for each of us, no matter the tattered state of our lives or brokenness of our hearts.

This is how her holiness can be described: she could gaze on God with childlike loving, not averting her eyes, not fleeing as we do into the theoretical, the sentimental or the pious, but holding still before God, knowing that the gaze of the Father always brings us love, not pain.

It has been said of Therese that she had the fragility of a child but the courage of a warrior. In her company we can acknowledge our own fragility. And we can ask for a share of her courage: a courage that stops us from hiding from our failures, a courage that enables us to stand before the Lord when our eyes are full of tears, a courage to bear our hearts and souls to Him for he alone will accept, embrace and delight us.

Listen, just once more to her words, as she repeats her message about how we are to grow in intimacy with the Lord. This is the lesson we are to learn:

‘Yes, my Beloved, this is how my life will be consumed…I have no other means of proving my love than strewing flowers (before you), that is to say not to let one little sacrifice escape, not one look, not one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love.’

Only step by step is a great Abbey Church built. Only step by step can we open ourselves daily to the love of God that he may build his goodness into us and that we may live in intimacy with Him.

We thank God for this time of tutoring. May we learn our lessons well, and may the prayers of St Edward our Confessor and St Therese our much loved Doctor of the Church, help us always. Amen.

+Vincent Nichols

Posted by: catholicrelics | October 13, 2009

Love is the key to it all

Sacrament of the Sick

Bishop Alan Hopes presiding and preaching

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we have made our journey to this cathedral as pilgrims to celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick. As we do so, we acknowledge our inability to deal with our human frailty and our human weakness. Through the prayer of the Church, the laying on of hands and anointing with holy oil, we seek to experience afresh God’s love and mercy which will always bring healing and wholeness into our lives.

We celebrate this Sacrament today in the presence of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Her relics bring us very close to her – St Thérèse, enjoying the fullness of life in heaven, will bring us very close to God, challenging us to imitate her in her love for Him and for others, even in suffering.

As we seek to come to terms with our frailty and weakness, and carry the burden of pain and suffering, what will she teach us – how can she help us? She speaks to us from her own experience of intense suffering and pain after contracting tuberculosis. She eventually died from the disease at the early age of 24.

In her Little Way, she points us always to the immense love that God has for each one of us. Her Little Way teaches us that if we are to experience that immense love in our own lives, then we must become like little children all over again. Like them in their relationship with their parents, we first have to learn to trust in God’s love and depend on him completely. We have to rediscover our littleness and, in her own words, expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father.

Second, St Thérèse teaches us that out of such dependence grows real confidence. As we become aware of our weaknesses so we will become aware of God’s merciful love. For wherever we find ourselves, however estranged we may feel we are from God because of sickness, whether we are full of doubt or whatever we might have done, God’s love still continues to stretch out towards us. Again St. Thérèse writes: I am certain that even if I had on my conscience every imaginable sin, I should lose nothing of my confidence, but would throw myself heart broken with sorrow into the arms of my Saviour. I know too well what to believe concerning his mercy and love. The Little Way of Thérèse gives great confidence to all sinners, great and small alike.

Third, Thérèse teaches us that this confidence leads us away from irrational fear of the future. She teaches us to live for today only – that the real way to live is to think that this is the only day we have to love God. If we learn to live for today our pains become that much easier to bear and our temptations lose their strength.

Love is the key to it all. Our lives are made up of many ordinary things – but as we experience God’s love we begin to understand that every circumstance of life is to be used as an expression of our love for God – every difficulty, every sorrow, every pain, every humiliation, every disappointment – and we carry everything out as an offering of love for our heavenly Father.

And finally Thérèse teaches us to find our Christian vocation to love God and each other even in suffering. With trust and confidence we bring our weakness and frailty to God. In his love, we find strength, support and understanding. Thérèse teaches us to unite our sufferings with those of Jesus on the Cross. When we do so, we discover that they can become redemptive and grace can flow into the lives of others. It is the way of love.

In a few moments we shall celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick. It speaks to us about Jesus who is at the centre of this Sacrament. It speaks to us about his Presence coming amongst us today to continue his work of making us whole through the ministry of the Church. Today he reassures us of his immense love for us as he seeks to touch the deepest part of our humanity with his healing power.

As we ask the prayers of S Thérèse today, pray that God will touch the frailty of our human bodies with his healing power. And pray for a deeper awareness of just how precious each one of us is in God’s sight and how deeply in love with us, God is.

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