Thérèse leads us to the essentials, says Pope Francis

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Saint Thérèse allows me to observe that, in a missionary Church, “the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth …

Pope Francis says that St. Thérèse is a “Doctor of synthesis,” leading the Church to an understanding of the essentials of the Gospel. to what is “essential and indispensable.”

The Holy Father released this October 15, the memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, his apostolic exhortation on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, calling it, in French, C’est La Confiance … “It is confidence.”

It is subtitled: “On confidence in the merciful love of God for the 150th anniversary of the birth of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.”

And the first line quotes the little saint: “C’est la confiance et rien que la confiance qui doit nous conduire à l’Amour.” (It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love.)

“Its publication on the liturgical Memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila is a way of presenting Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as the mature fruit of the reform of the Carmel and of the spirituality of the great Spanish saint,” he said.

Her eyes and her heart

The Holy Father reflects on her tremendous missionary spirit, her little way, her closeness to Mary, and her love for the Church, among other themes. But her genius, he says, is getting to the essential.

The specific contribution that Therese offers us as a saint and a Doctor of the Church is not analytical, along the lines, for example, of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Her contribution is more synthetic, for her genius consists in leading us to what is central, essential and indispensable. By her words and her personal experience she shows that, while it is true that all the Church’s teachings and rules have their importance, their value, their clarity, some are more urgent and more foundational for the Christian life. That is where Therese directed her eyes and her heart.

Quoting his 2013 exhortation, Evangelii Guadium, on the Joy of the Gospel, he considers that St. Thérèse has the message needed for these post-Christian times in which all of the Church is missionary.

This Exhortation on Saint Therese allows me to observe that, in a missionary Church, “the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing.” The luminous core of that message is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

Therese votive candles

Andy Sutherland | Shutterstock

Importance of simplicity

Pope Francis lamented that sometimes this essential aspect of St. Thérèse is missed, and “the only quotes we find cited from this saint are secondary to her message, or deal with things she has in common with any other saint, such as prayer, sacrifice, Eucharistic piety, and any number of other beautiful testimonies.”

He urged to find “what is most specific about her gift to the Church.”

From heaven to earth, the timely witness of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face endures in all the grandeur of her little way. 

In an age that urges us to focus on our ourselves and our own interests, Therese shows us the beauty of making our lives a gift

At a time when the most superficial needs and desires are glorified, she testifies to the radicalism of the Gospel

In an age of individualism, she makes us discover the value of a love that becomes intercession for others. 

At a time when human beings are obsessed with grandeur and new forms of power, she points out to us the little way

In an age that casts aside so many of our brothers and sisters, she teaches us the beauty of concern and responsibility for one another

At a time of great complexity, she can help us rediscover the importance of simplicity, the absolute primacy of love, trust and abandonment, and thus move beyond a legalistic or moralistic mindset that would fill the Christian life with rules and regulations, and cause the joy of the Gospel to grow cold. 

In an age of indifference and self-absorption, Therese inspires us to be missionary disciples, captivated by the attractiveness of Jesus and the Gospel.

He concludes with this simple prayer:

Dear Saint Therese, 
the Church needs to radiate the brightness, 
the fragrance and the joy of the Gospel. 
Send us your roses! 
Help us to be, like yourself, 
ever confident in God’s immense love for us, 
so that we may imitate each day
your “little way” of holiness. 

Learn more about St. Thérèse here.

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