Posted by: catholicrelics | October 11, 2009

The Real ‘Shower of Roses’

Originally uploaded by Catholic Church (England and Wales).

Most Reverend Fernando Millán (Prior General – Order of Carmelites): Homily

Farewell Mass at the Friars, Aylesford

When I visit a country, a Carmelite community some where, one of our schools or parishes around the world, I use to begin my talk or my homily saying that it is a great pleasure, a privilege and a great honour to be here – and most of the time that is true. It always nice to visit our brothers or sisters (friars, nuns, lay Carmelite groups) and to share with them the word of God on a special occasion. Many times that has happened here in Aylesford over the past two years, in such a special place for the Carmelites. It is always an honour and a privilege to be in the place where, according to the tradition, Our Lady of Mount Carmel gave Saint Simon Stock the holy Scapular, a tender loving sign of protection and help. This place is very special especially for us Carmelites.

But, to be here today is not just a privilege and an honour, it is a real grace. The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux are visiting Britain after being in so many other countries. During the last few days we have seen thousands of people visiting them, venerating them, accompanying them in processions or just praying in front of them, in silence and in a spirit of recollection.
Joyfully we can say that the visit has been a great success and I congratulate the Church here in England and Wales, the Carmelites, the organizers and every one who has been involved in this visit.

But we must ask ourselves: when we say that the visit has been a great success… what does it mean? What is “success” for us? If we speak in terms of numbers of people, crowds and so on, there can be no doubt that it was successful. If we talk in terms of organization there is no doubt either. But there are two ways to understand this expression “great success” that I consider very important and that I want to share with you:

– The first one is that many people have found during this visit and in these wonderful celebrations a good occasion to renew, to re-find, or even to discover their faith. Little Therese, a young and humble cloister nun who lived in the North of France at the end of the Nineteenth Century, didn’t write long volumes of theology, and she died quite young after two years of suffering… Little Therese has something special. She inspires us with the freshness of the Gospel; she teaches us how to live it more profoundly, in a committed, beautiful and honest way.

This is the real success of this visit. I have been very touched during these days when someone comes to me and says “Father, I went to confession after 20 or 30 years”, or “I got the grace to forgive somebody or to ask someone’s forgiveness”.
This is the real “shower of roses”, the shower of grace that Therese spoke about. This is not (or it shouldn’t be) superstition, or idolatry, or religious folklore, or sentimentality, or something of the kind. Therese points very clearly to the very heart of the Gospel, that is: to love, to respect, to forgiveness, to tenderness, to compassion, to be more understanding of the needs of the people around us… to be day-by-day more human.

In the first reading today we have heard to talk about real wisdom that is more important that silver or gold, more than health or beauty. Therese received that wisdom reserved to the poor ones, to the humble ones, to the simple ones.

– The second success is no less important. Many have underlined the ecumenical importance of this visit. Not only Catholics, but also Anglicans, Methodists, Buddhists, and people without religious affiliation… came to visit the relics. There is something so basic, so fundamental, so essential in the message of Therese that many people, no matter what their religious confession, feel she has something to say to them.

Perhaps (among many other elements of her spiritual teaching) we find with Therese that God is not a God of fear, a God of implacable Justice, a God before whom we feel afraid. When Therese listened to talk of the justice of God, instead of being sad and fearful… she was quite happy: “God knows how weak we are!” When Therese was writing this, in France there was still a very strong influence from Jansenism. That was a religious group or movement, with very good people and very committed Christians, who were worried about the level and the quality of religious life in France. They were asking for a greater seriousness, more commitment, and they were always stressing the justice of God and the gravity of sin. That is fine and there is nothing wrong with it. But, Jansenism forgotten the key point, the essential element, the basis of the Gospel and Christian life is not rules, justice, norms for punishment… but that it is about grace, love, mercy and freedom. That is the secret of Therese; that is perhaps also the secret of her success.

It is something more than fulfil the law, it is a love story. It is about loving God, and especially about feeling loved by Him. The young man in the Gospel was a quite good religious person. He fulfilled the law and the religious rules, and he wanted to be good. But he didn’t put God at the very centre of his heart.

That is why, when we look at the life of Therese, when we listen to her message, we get the impression that she is directing us to the very heart of the Gospel.

If, after this visit we are a little bit closer to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ; if we have been able to forgive somebody; if we have decided to remove form our hearts hatred and prejudice; if we trust more in God, even when we are suffering; if we are ready to feel the love of God in our lives… if only one person has received that message and is willing to live it… the visit has been a great, great success, and we can say that it was worthy to bring the relics of this Carmelite to this country. I am sure that not only one person, but a lot of people today are a little bit closer to God, and so a bit closer to others around them. I am sure that we all have grown these days in faith, in humanity, in tenderness in solidarity…

THANK YOU, LITTLE THERESE, FOR BEING WITH US. YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULDN’T BE PASSIVE IN HEAVEN, BUT VERY ACTIVE. PLEASE, INTERCEDE FOR US, FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR COUNTRIES, FOR PEACE AROUND THE WORLD. INTERCEDE ESPECIALLY FOR ALL THOSE WHO SUFFER, ALL THOSE WHO ARE SICK AND LONELY, ALL THOSE WHO NEED MORE OF OUR LOVE AND OUR PRAYER… AMEN

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