Posted by: catholicrelics | October 9, 2009

Morning Mass in Oxford

Queues continued into the morning in the glorious sunshine in Oxford, and Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form was Sung and celebrated by Fr Daniel Seward, Parish Priest of the Oratory.

Throughout the day a peaceful hubbub of pilgrims flowed in and out to venerate St Thérèse’s relics, have some time of quiet prayer then a cup of tea.  One little girl said that she’d been there since 5am serving cups of tea and would be there until 5pm, and that St Thérèse is a very special saint to her.

A special healing service took place for the sick in the afternoon.  Then Bishop Philip Boyce O.C.D. gave Benediction at the closing service before the relics headed off to their next stop, Gerrard’s Cross.

Some comments from among the 6,200 pilgims who came to pray before St Thérèse’s relics:

“I have never experienced such a welcome.”

“It was like being in heaven”

“It was so wonderful to see thousands of people wanting to be the best they can.”

Fr Daniel’s sermon from the morning.

8th October 2009

Missa Cantata in the Presence of the Relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux

Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Ask a group of children what they would like to be when they grow up and none of them will tell you that they want to be investment bankers or chartered accountants. Instead, even the least prepossessing will aspire to be supermodels and those with no athletic ability to become Premiership footballers. It’s a sad thing that becoming an adult means limiting our ambition, circumscribing our vision and learning to set ourselves very modest goals. We tend to think of being ‘like a little child’ as meaning being weak, vulnerable and dependent and it is true that this is part of the characteristic of childhood. But children also have the imagination to believe that all things are possible. Thérèse of Lisieux remained like a little child because she never lost her childhood ambition. She wanted to be a saint – and not just any saint but a great saint.

It is clear that the family life Thérèse knew from the beginning of her life is what planted this desire for holiness in her, and that, as for most children, the most significant influence was that of her parents – especially her father. She writes in the Story of a Soul:

“It was He (God) that chose the soil I was to grow in – holy ground, all steeped (you might say) in the scent of purity. He saw to it that eight lilies of dazzling whiteness should grow up there before me.”

In a letter, Thérèse wrote,

“The good God gave me a father and mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth.”

After the death of her mother, Zélie, when Thérèse was four, Louis Martin became the focus of the Little Flower’s life. Even though she had Pauline as her ‘second Mother’, Thérèse still says,

“Papa’s compassionate nature made him a mother as well as a father to me.”

This is not to say that Louis was an indulgent father. He made sure that Thérèse was not allowed to let compliments about her prettiness go to her head, and he taught all his daughters from a young age always to have a care for the poor and disadvantaged. But Louis was for Thérèse the ‘King of France and Navarre’. He was her whole world, and his many virtues added up to the picture that she was to carry through her whole life of God as our loving Father. Thérèse’s teaching of confidence in God our Father all stems from the intense love that she had for her own, earthly father:
”The very idea that Papa might die some day was enough to make me tremble all over. Once when he was at the top of a ladder, and I was just underneath, he shouted, ‘Stand clear, Tiny; if I fell off now I should squash you flat.’ All my instincts rebelled; instead of moving away, I clung to the ladder – if he did fall, I could spare myself the pain of witnessing his death by dying when he did.

I simply can’t explain how fond I was of Papa; everything about him filled me with admiration> sometimes he used to tell me his ideas about things in general, just as if I’d been a big girl; and I used to say that if he put all that to the important Government people they’d be certain to take him and make a king of him, and then France would be happier than she’d ever been. But at heart, although I felt it was rather selfish of me, I was quite content that things should remain as they were, and that I should be the only person who really understood him through and through. Because, if he’d been made king of ‘France and Navarre’, he’d certainly have been unhappy – all kings were; and besides, he was my own prince and I wanted to keep him all for myself.”

This description of Thérèse’s love for and confidence in her father is key to the understanding of her ‘Little Way’, because it shows us what she really meant by becoming a little child. Children have a complete trust in their parents and a belief that they are able to accomplish anything. In fact, in all our childhoods, the discovery that our parents are not omnipotent and omniscient is a traumatic moment. We have to learn the frailty even of what seemed most certain in this world – our father and mother who nurtured us – in order to learn to trust only in God, not in His creatures. All the same, it is good to have this primal model to lead us to know God as he perfect Father, and we can see all too clearly the consequences for children who were never able to have this trust in their parents. Thérèse herself went through emotional torture when she learned of her father’s mental disintegration and sufferings after she had entered Carmel.

As she grew older, Thérèse grew more and more trusting of her heavenly Father, and we might say that her demands became more and more extravagant. At fourteen, she prayed for the mass murderer Henri Pranzini, that he might repent before his execution. Her prayers were answered when he kissed the crucifix three times while on the guillotine block, and after the conversion of this her ‘first child’ she had the confidence to give her whole life to praying for souls. Her prayer was always direct and childlike: she had no hesitation in asking God to send snow on the day of her clothing, and when praying about her sister Léonie’s vocation as a Visitandine, she said simply, “And if she hasn’t got a vocation, give her one”. After Therese’s death, God did indeed give Léonie the grace of perseverance in religious life. Thérèse wanted to love God more than He had ever been loved before. The extravagance of this desire is astonishing – she wanted to love God more than all the other saints put together! Yet she was motivated not by pride, but simply by an all-consuming passion – a passion that made it impossible for her to wait beyond the age of fifteen before joining her spouse in Carmel.

Thérèse has promised us that she will spend her Heaven doing good on earth, and we can be sure then that she still desires to make God loved more than He ever has been before. That means that she wants you and me to love Him more than St Paul did, more than our Holy Father St Philip did, more than even Thérèse herself did. As we come to pray before the relics of this, our little sister, we should have that same passionate desire to become as little children, to leave behind our hesitation and our fear. Let us, during this time of grace, ask God not for little things, but for huge favours. We should pray with confidence for the conversion of sinners, for the transformation of our city and of our nation, and above all let us place ourselves unreservedly into His hands, asking that we may cease to be lukewarm and mediocre Christians, but that instead we may become great saints. Nothing is impossible to God – absolutely nothing – so why do we ask Him for so little? Is it because we are too grown up? All the sadness, cruelty and despair of this world emanates from souls who think that they have grown out of the love of God. How much wiser is the doctrine of the Little Flower, resting like a child in her Father’s arms. When Léonie grew out of childish things and offered Céline and Thérèse a choice of her trinkets, Céline politely took one item. – but Thérèse took the whole pile, saying “I choose all”. She did not want only one good thing, she wanted everything.

Dear Little Sister, help us to change and become as you are – little children. Teach us to ask with complete trust for every good thing that our Father wishes to give us. Make us love God more than He has very been loved, so that we can accomplish your mission of making Him known here and in all five continents of the world. Let us, like you “choose all”.

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