Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thérèse of the Child Jesus - The greatest saint in modern times

"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19: 14)

If we literally analyse the above statement of Jesus in the Gospel, we conclude that children will be in heaven. This tells us that people who have a child-like trust in God as children do with their parents, will enter heaven, or rather heaven will grow in them.

But what makes Thérèse the greatest saint in modern times? She did not perform any miracle in her life. She did not have the stigmata nor was she able to penetrate other people’s hearts. She was not a prophet, nor a teacher. She did not even see people but was a cloistered nun in a simple convent in Lisieux. We, in fact, would not have known anything about her short life had she not written her autobiography on order from her superior.

She was born in 1873 to two pious parents (who have recently been beatified). She was the 9th and youngest child of Louis and Zelie-Gerin Martin, therefore, the most spoiled of their children. Her father used to call her affectionately “My queen”. She was walking with him one night and saw the stars making the letter T in the sky. Amazed she told her dad “Look, my name is written in heaven!” Her mother died of breast cancer when she was only 4. Her father had a stroke and died when she was only 15. Thérèse grew in the atmosphere of a religious family: all her sisters, like her, became nuns. This shows the example of the parents in bringing up their children. They respected their children and loved them. They recognized their dignity and joyfully carried them to become what they wanted to be.

Now little Thérèse was very sensitive – after her mother’s death she adopted her sister Pauline as her second mother. Thérèse wanted to be happy. When as a child she was asked to choose one toy from a basket of toys, she grasped them all. She claims to have been miraculously cured from illness when the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary seemed to smile to her. However, her change from “mine” to “yours” came about when she had an inner conversion experience on Christmas eve when she was almost 14 years old.

Her desire to be with Jesus grew and became an exploding love which led her to plead with Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite order at the early age of 15. Approved on an exceptional basis she was admitted. Here started her “little way” - doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way. She wanted to be a saint but saw that she could not imitate the great saints who fought the spiritual wars and “earned” their merits with great deeds. For her, it was enough to do one’s little job but only do it with confidence in God’s merciful love. Thérèse practiced this way to the end. A happy girl, confident in God’s love, finding satisfaction in reading the Bible since she did not understand the great teachers, and doing her daily duties with care, she grew in carrying the cross of Christ. Her doubts of the existence of God and her physical illness did not prevent her from growing in faith, hope and love. She died of tuberculosis at the early age of 24. Her last word was “My God, I love you!”

We know now from history that Pope Benedict XV in 1922 had to break the rule that no cause for sainthood could be considered for at least 50 years after her/his death. She was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. In 1997, on the occasion of the centenary of her death, Pope John Paul the Great, who himself was one of the most learned popes, made her Doctor (i.e. Teacher) of the Church.

The reason was simple: She was simple. She attracted many people to her “Little Way” to sainthood. When her book was published a few years after her death, it became a phenomenal best seller among ordinary lay people. Her popularity became world-wide with “showers” of miracles and conversions attributed to her intercession. Many churches have been consecrated to her, and at Lisieux where she lived and died, there is a shrine of her.

She has been, and continues to be, one of the most beloved saints in the history of the Church.

How important is this example for us and our world in this post-modern age where the rule is no rule, love is rather the selfish physical desire, and greed is the driver of souls.

Thérèse of Lisieux – Teacher of the World! That is what I think.

The End?

The End is characterized by the Second Coming of Christ. The Gospel tells us in vivid parables that we must remain vigilant. But what does “vigilant” mean? If you are a student you have an incentive to study hard. You spend time sharpening your skills and memory to get the best marks. It is serious for you. This is how important the Second Coming of Christ was to the early Christians. Note that Mark 13 talks about two different events: The first is the destruction of the Temple which took place in 69-70 AD when the Romans, led by Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and killed its inhabitants. The second event is the eschatological coming of Christ “on the clouds” which is more important to us. Writing in “The New Jerome Biblical Commentary” (1991), the Jesuit Biblical scholar Daniel Harrington indicates “The cosmic portents (in reference to “the Sun will be darkened...”) preceding the coming of the Son of Man echo certain Old Testament texts: Isa 13:10; Ezek 32:7; Amos 8:9....” However, the Son of Man here is not the angelic figure described in Daniel 7:13 but “is clearly Jesus” says Harrington. According to Harrington, the Biblical message is an exhortation to confidence and vigilance (Mark 13: 28-37). The definitiveness of Christ’s saying is expressed here “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Jesus speaks the language of Isa 51:6 and 40:8 to underscore the divine authority of his teaching.

"But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Although Arians in the 4th century, and today’s Mormons argued, based on this text, that Christ did not know the exact time of the end of the world, the early Church was confident of the divinity of Christ to whom Thomas testified “My Lord and My God”. According to Tradition, Christ meant that he was not going to reveal what he knew as the Son of God of the mystery of the end, but only as humans are curious the question may not be answered. This interpretation is in harmony with the Church’s doctrine that Christ was not only God but also fully human. In the 11th century St. Malachy received the gift of prophecy and is said to have received a vision of the popes from his day to the end of time. According to the documented vision, there remains only one pope after the current Pope Benedict XVI before the end of time (see

Meeting Jesus is the most important event that we must prepare for. Confidence in Jesus, as shown in the lives of saints, is the key to this preparation. This is the meaning of the Third Secret of Fatima which many Christians seem to be curious about. This is particularly important in the current crisis of global economic hardship. Preparation requires personal repentance and forgiveness. Christ asks us to love God and love each other as he loved us. Reading the Gospel and praying need to be followed by actions including helping those in need, and by receiving the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. Confidence in Jesus will move us to thank him for everything he does and allow him to enter in our minds and hearts.

One particular prophecy of Christ intrigues me, although it can safely relate to the persecution of the early Church: children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.In my opinion, this prophecy can be applied too to today’s attempts by governments to eliminate old people. When my own mother had her stroke in 1999, she was transferred to the nearest hospital in Brampton. As she was in vegetative state, doctors and nurses in the hospital urged us to authorize them not to resuscitate her if she gets a heart attack. She was 79 when she had her stroke and lived 3 more years in this state. We refused to authorize doctors to pre-emptively kill an innocent person. For the government, she was only a number who occupied a bed. The budget for healthcare medicare is a matter of cost. This is another thing that you must be vigilant about.

In the teaching of the Church, every life is sacred from natural conception to natural death. The tightening of economic spending may force governments to implement such ideas as euthanasia especially because the elderly live longer than years ago. However, as Christians we must oppose such barbaric ideas resurrected from the Nazi’s regime. As Christians we are invited to console the elderly in their loneliness. For love must triumph in the end. While we suffer here we are confident that Christ will wipe out every tear when we hopefully join him in the New Jerusalem of heaven (Cf. Revelation 21: 4). We hope we will be among the elect.

Curé d'Ars - A Spiritual Father

Jean-Baptist Marie Vianney lived in 19th century France. Born a son of a farmer in 1786 near Lyons, he entered the seminary at the age of 20 but had difficulties in his theological studies. He was, however, ordained a priest because his bishop felt it was necessary to have not only knowledgeable priests but holy ones too. His first appointment was to assist the parish priest at Ėcully who appreciated Vianney's assistance until his death in 1817. Vianney was then appointed parish priest of Ars-end-Dombes (a remote small village of about 250 inhabitants). There the curé d’Ars, as he was popularly known, started his active campaign against immodesty. He preached everyday and received confessions of the faithful that was unmatched by any known priest before him. He spent 14 to 17 hours a day in the confessional. His fame spread quickly especially that he was regarded by all as a miracle worker. He was also given the gift of reading people's hearts. People from far away visited him and requested his guidance which forced the atheist government of the Revolution to set up transportation routes to Ars. One story stands out which tells us of his holiness. On entering the church he saw a peasant sitting in front of the Eucharist. Vianney asked him what he was doing and the answer came: I look to him and he looks to me! That was Jesus in the Eucharist who continues to look to every one for a little prayer or at least a look. The great Curé experienced much suffering and diabolical temptations but he never broke his commitment to Christ! He died in 1859 and was canonized in 1925.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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