Posted by: catholicrelics | October 12, 2009

What is her secret?

Bishop Alan Hopes – Homily
Reception Mass, Carmelite Church in Kensington

Over the past two weeks, the Church has witnessed remarkable scenes across the country of the coming together of tens of thousands of people to welcome and venerate the relics of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus – the Little Flower. Tonight we are preparing to welcome her Relics into the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Some would see this pilgrimage of the Relics as something of a bygone age breaking into the 21st century, something which has little relevance to modern society and its needs. Others would be concerned that the Church is raising the hopes of vulnerable people who come seeking a miracle.

However, many more see this Visit of the Relics as a very important moment in the life of the Church in England and Wales which will bring hope and renewal to the lives of many. For we believe that when someone like Thérèse has lived their life very close to God on earth they become a way in which God can touch the lives of many others with his love. And that continues to be true, even after their death. So, to venerate the relics of such a person brings us very close to them – and then they will always lead us closer to God and challenge us to imitate them in their love for Him. So when we welcome her relics into this church after Mass, we shall find ourselves very close to St Thérèse; we will be aware of her prayers for us; she will lead us to rediscover God’s love for us; and she will challenge us to renew our love for Him in the way we live our lives.

St. Thérèse is one of the most well-loved saints of the Church. What is her secret? What will she teach us during her Visit.

She was born in 1873 of wonderfully devoted and loving parents. After her mother’s death the family moved to Lisieux. Here Thérèse found her vocation to offer her life to God as a Carmelite nun. Entering the Carmel at the age of 15 she struggled along the road towards holiness until she died at the age of 24.

This was at a time when the Church in France was still strongly influenced by a philosophy which taught that all human beings are corrupt and depraved, that God is deeply displeased with us and in order to placate the anger of God we must do penance.

St Thérèse’s way of loving and following Jesus decisively corrected this thinking. She points us, not towards the anger of God, but towards his immense love for us all. Her Little Way, is the way of love and it comes out of her own experience of God. Through patience and perseverance, through prayer and absorbing the Gospel, she experiences an intense love for Jesus. She sees how her whole life is a great love affair with God and then understands how every action becomes an offering of love. She suddenly finds her true vocation, not to be a missionary or a martyr, but to be nothing else than love at the heart of Mother Church.

She teaches us that if we are to experience God’s immense love within our lives and to truly love him, then we must become like little children all over again. Like them in their relationship with their parents, we have to trust in God’s love and depend on him completely. We have to rediscover our littleness – we are, writes Thérèse, to recognise our nothingness, and expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father.

Thérèse teaches us that out of such dependence grows confidence – because as we become aware of our weaknesses so we will become aware of God’s merciful love. For wherever we may find ourselves or whatever we may have done, God’s love still continues to stretch out towards us. In the words of St. Thérèse: 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 his love.
The Little Way of Thérèse gives great confidence to all sinners, both great and small alike.

This confidence leads us away from irrational fear of God and the future.
St Thérèse teaches us to live only for today – and that the real way to live is to think that today is the only day that we have to love God. If we learn to live for today only, our pain becomes that much easier to bear, our temptations lose their strength. Love is the key to it all.

What response can we make to this immense love of God?

St. Thérèse writes :
How shall I show my love ….no other means have I of proving my love than to strew flowers – to let no sacrifice escape me, not a look, not a word, to make use of the very least actions and do them all for love.

Our lives are made up of many ordinary things – but in experiencing God’s love we begin to understand that every circumstance of life in which we find ourselves is to be used as an expression of our love for God – every humiliation, every difficulty, every sorrow, every disappointment, every joy, every duty, everything. We carry out everything as an offering of love for our heavenly Father.

Thérèse also reminds us that we must love our neighbour because we must look for and find Jesus hidden in the depths of their soul.

And finally, St. Thérèse who underwent excruciating pain through tuberculosis teaches us to find our Christian vocation to love God and each other even in suffering. With trust and confidence we bring our pain to God and we find support and strength and understanding in his love. Uniting her pain with that of Jesus on the Cross helped her to understand that it could become redemptive and that grace could flow into the lives of others.

Thérèse points us to the way of love.

St Thérèse died at the age of 24. Since her death, through her Little Way, she has become the guide for so many into the way of holiness. She has been a companion on the way praying for us and helping us towards God.

She reminds us that despite all our struggles, temptations and doubts, it is possible for us too to start on the road to holiness. Her Visit calls us to find this Way, to become aware of God’s love for us, to come closer to Him and to live for Him alone. She will pray for us in heaven as we venerate her mortal remains here on earth – and she will teach us how to love and follow Jesus and to become love at the heart of the Church.

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