Friday, 1 October 2021 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the great Patroness of Missions, St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus. St. Therese was a Carmelite nun who was remembered for her great piety and faith, her commitment to the Lord and her great writings and contributions to the Church. As such, she was greatly revered by many people who were touched and inspired by her examples and holy life, even though she had a relatively short life when she died at the very young age of twenty-four.

St. Therese of Lisieux was born as the daughter of the now Saints, St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin. The family of St. Therese of Lisieux was a very devout Catholic family, and her parents were truly great role models as Christians and as dedicated and loving parents to their children. Although they were not rich, but they led a happy and pious life together as a family, which eventually saw not just St. Therese joining the religious life as a nun, but in fact all of the five daughters of St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin who survived to adulthood all joined the religious life.

St. Therese had always been frail and weak since when she was born, and as she grew up, she was brought up in a very pious and devoted environment as her family observed the daily attendance at the Holy Mass every morning, the regular practice of fasting and abstinence as well as the daily and regular recitation of the Divine Office and other prayers, which her family always never failed to do, as well as numerous charitable efforts and works, which influenced the young St. Therese greatly. This would become one of the main inspiration for her to join consecrated life.

St. Therese then expressed her desire to join the religious life since a very young age. After she has lost her mother at the age of just four and a half years old, his father took care of her and her other sisters, and sent her to be educated by Benedictine nuns. Her desire to dedicate herself to the Lord became only stronger and as her own sisters also joined a Carmelite convent, especially one who was particularly close to her, this led to St. Therese expressing even greater desire to follow the Lord.

All the challenges that she had to face did not deter St. Therese from doing her best to seek entry to the religious life, and it was told that in one occasion on one Christmas Midnight Mass, she experienced a great spiritual experience that she later on described as a complete conversion experience. It was a moment of great significance as she overcame her previous troubles and spiritual troubles of having lost her mother at a very young age as well as other troubles and the sickness she had.

That also further deepened her spirituality and commitment to God as she continued to persevere in her desire to be a consecrated nun, which was eventually led her to Rome, as the Pope, then Pope Leo XIII met her in a personal audience in which she uttered her great desire to join the Carmelites. The Pope told her to obey the will of the Carmelite superiors and to entrust herself to the will of God, that if it is indeed God’s will, then she would be able to enter the Carmelite Order. Eventually, she did manage to enter the convent, by the arrangements authorised by the local bishop.

St. Therese spent her life afterwards in great piety and commitment to God, while still enduring both physical and spiritual trials and difficulties. Yet, all these did not dampen her spirit and enthusiasm as she continued to persevere through prayer and strict discipline throughout her life as a Carmelite and she wrote down her experiences of receiving visions and other spiritual experiences that she lived through. She was also then known for her famous ‘Little Way’ which also earned her the name of the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’.

What is this Little Way that St. Therese of Lisieux proposed, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we do not have to do great things in order to attain the glory of Heaven. Rather, our good works and our living by our faith is measured by the small little actions we do each day and every moments of our lives. Little by little, small effort bit by bit, we will eventually get there, and we will find our way to the Lord if we continue to persevere in our faith and remain faithful to God. This is what we have been called to do through the examples of St. Therese of Lisieux, her faith and exemplary life.

To the very end of her life, St. Therese of Lisieux dedicated herself to a life of prayer, and her many writings and works inspired many who had read them and come to know about her life and her devotion to God. Her immense popularity among the faithful, even long after her passing is credited with numerous conversions among the people and one of the reason why she was named as the Patroness of Missions. And we should be inspired to follow in her examples and her virtues and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard the great detail of the life of this most wonderful and renowned saint, we are all then called to reflect on our own way of life. Are we all willing to follow in her good examples and are we all capable of committing ourselves to a life of total giving and service to God as St. Therese of Lisieux had done? And we have to realise that we often do not have to do many amazing and wonderful things in life. What we have to do is to reach out to others around us even through very small actions and gestures in life, that by our exemplary life we may lead more and more of our fellow brethren to the salvation in God.

As Christians we are all called to action, to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to His cause and works in our world today. We are all called to be the beacons of His light and truth in our darkened world, and as we see how the shining faith of St. Therese of Lisieux had been an immense source of hope and light to all who witnessed and seen her life examples, we too should do the same in our own lives. Can we contribute our efforts even in the smallest way we can, to glorify the Lord by our lives?

May the Lord continue to help and strengthen us, and may He guide us in our journey throughout life so that we may always ever draw closer to Him in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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