National Catholic Register

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The Little Flower’s Place Among the Spiritual Masters

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 14-20, 1999 Issue | Posted 3/14/99 at 1:00 PM

 

On Oct. 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Thérèse of Lisieux a doctor of the Church with the following words.

Thérèse Martin, a discalced Carmelite of Lisieux, ardently desired to be a missionary. She was one, to the point that she could be proclaimed patroness of the missions. Jesus himself showed her how she could live this vocation: by fully practicing the commandment of love, she would be immersed in the very heart of the Church's mission, supporting those who proclaim the Gospel with the mysterious power of prayer and communion.

Thus she achieved what the Second Vatican Council emphasized in teaching that the Church is missionary by nature. Not only those who choose the missionary life but all the baptized are in some way sent ad gentes. This is why I chose this missionary Sunday to proclaim St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a doctor of the universal Church: a woman, a young person, a contemplative.

Everyone thus realizes that today something surprising is happening. St Thérèse of Lisieux was unable to attend a university or engage in systematic study. She died young: nevertheless, from this day forward she will be honored as a doctor of the Church, an outstanding recognition which raises her in the esteem of the entire Christian community far beyond any academic title.

Indeed, when the magisterium proclaims someone a doctor of the Church, it intends to point out to all the faithful, particularly to those who perform in the Church the fundamental service of preaching or who undertake the delicate task of theological teaching and research, that the doctrine professed and proclaimed by a certain person can be a reference point, not only because it conforms to revealed truth, but also because it sheds new light on the mysteries of the faith, a deeper understanding of Christ's mystery. …

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the youngest of all the “doctors of the Church,” but her ardent spiritual journey shows such maturity, and the insights of faith expressed in her writings are so vast and profound that they deserve a place among the great spiritual masters.