Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Today’s Gospel presents us with what seems like three distinct moments in Christ’s reply to His disciples as they return from preaching the Good News. First, Christ tells His disciples that He has seen Satan fall, has given them power, and to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. Second, Christ “rejoices in spirit” and praises God the Father. Lastly, Christ privately tells His disciples that they are blessed because of what they see and hear. What are we to make of all this?
Regarding the first section, some fathers of the Church have noticed that Christ used the verb see in the past: He saw Satan fall when He was expelled from heaven. However, now, through the work of the disciples, Satan is cast down even further, being tread upon and trampled underfoot. However, it’s not simply this victory over Satan that matters; what really matters is the ultimate victory, when souls make it to heaven. That is the ultimate and definitive victory over the devil, and it is that which should make the disciples rejoice. Here, we should recall that God has conquered the devil; in our lives, with our work, our vocations, our families, we too are to spread Christ’s victory and to expand His kingdom over the powers of darkness.
Second, Christ “rejoices in the Spirit,” which some have taken to mean that this work of salvation, of overcoming the devil, will come through the work of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we also see that Christ gives the two conditions for a fruitful work of spreading the Gospel. First, we must be “childlike,” meaning, we need humility. God chooses the lowly for His works, and the condition for us being able to work with Him is docility to His will. As Saint Bernadette said of Mary, “If she had found someone more ignorant than me, she would have chosen her.” There is great freedom and strength to be found in realizing that we are simply God’s instruments. The second condition for a real apostolate is to know the Father, which can happen only if we know the Son. This means that we need a real intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. An abstract faith, one that isn’t assumed as something personal or lived to the fullest, does not bear fruit.
Lastly, Christ reminds His disciples that they are blessed to be so close to Him, to hear and see Him with their own ears and eyes. The prophets preached the word of God, but weren’t able to see Him as they see Christ. Likewise, the patriarchs had faith, but weren’t able to see the dawning of salvation in Christ; all they saw was it approaching in the distance. For us too, we live in a time of grace. We have the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and access to God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. We have Our Blessed Mother and her never failing love for us, the examples of the saints and their intercession, the gifts of the Holy Spirt. We too live in a grace-filled time! Do we take advantage of all these graces?
Through the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, Mother of all Believers, and Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus,let us ask for the grace to really work to spread Christ’s kingdom, knowing that in humility and in a personal relationship with Christ, by making use of the sacraments and all the graces He gives, we can do much to advance Christ’s kingdom.
Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
In December of 1887, a father and his 14-year-old daughter stayed a few days at a hotel in Paris. The father was a widower, and he and his daughter were returning from a pilgrimage to Rome; after Paris they would return to their small hometown in northwestern France. During their stay, a young professor also lodged at the hotel. He was well-known in the world, having written several important books on philosophy that caused no shortage of debate and anger. We don’t know if the girl ever met with the professor, if they spoke in the hallways, or even if they saw each other.
What we do know, though, is that the ideas and philosophies of those two, the professor and the girl, have been in constant conflict, that many men and women have lived their lives and died based on what they taught, and it’s only Divine Providence that could have brought two people who were so spiritually distant from each other into such close physical proximity. The professor was Friedrich Nietzsche, called “the father of modern atheism” by some, and whose thought helped give rise to the Nazi ideology and brought so much suffering and death. The father was Saint Louis Martin, and his daughter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, whose only book, her Story of a Soul, has taught innumerable numbers of people how to follow God in humility and hope, bringing them joy and life.
Saint Therese reminds us that holiness is for everyone, and that the path that leads us back to God is simple. All we need to do is trust in God’s love, and follow Him with childlike simplicity. All the complicated thoughts, all the fame in the world, is nothing when compared to God’s love for His simplest children, as we read “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”
In that hotel, Nietzsche was so close to finding what would have made him truly happy, but he missed it. Today, through the intercession of Our Lady and of Saint Therese of Lisieux, let us ask for the grace to trust in God’s love for us and to follow Him as His beloved children.
 Bishop Ahern notes this; see, for instance, Owen F. Cummings, Prophets, Guardians, and Saints: Shapers of Modern Catholic History (Paulist Press: New York, 2007), 185.