A History of Little Miracles — Pope Francis and His Devotion to St. Thérèse

Former press secretary Federico Wals discussed two grace-filled instances Pope Francis had with the ‘Little Flower.’

Pope Francis receives a gift of a bas relief of St. Thérèse of Lisieux from a journalist in January.
Pope Francis receives a gift of a bas relief of St. Thérèse of Lisieux from a journalist in January. (photo: CNA/Alan Holdren)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has spoken on several occasions of his strong devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux — the Little Flower — as well as his habit of asking her for favors: favors, his former press secretary says, which have often come in the form little miracles.

One of those miracles came on Aug. 7, 2010, when then-Cardinal Bergoglio was accompanied by his press secretary, Federico Wals, to celebrate Mass honoring St. Cajetan on his feast day.

The cardinal was set to celebrate a Mass at the saint’s shrine in Buenos Aires and then walk to greet a long line of pilgrims to greet people, speak with them and bless the children, as he did every year.

“When leaving, he told me that he had already asked Santa Teresita (St. Thérèse) to send him a sign,” Wals said in an interview with Bolivian newspaper El Deber, which was published May 31.

“When he told me this, I was very skeptical and asked myself: ‘A sign?’”

Located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the Shrine of St. Cajetan draws thousands of pilgrims each year on the feast of his death.

Mass is celebrated each hour on the Aug. 7 feast, and after attending, faithful wait as long as 10 hours to pass in front of a small statue of the saint and kiss the glass separating it from them.

That day in 2010, “he didn't feel very well, but we were going to go anyway,” Wals said, explaining that Cardinal Bergoglio had asked St. Thérèse to send him a sign as to whether to walk all the way.

After celebrating Mass, the cardinal was in too much pain to walk the whole distance and decided to go just two blocks, before heading back to the center of Buenos Aires, Wals recalled.

However, as they reached the second block, Wals said they came across a man “taller than (the cardinal), dressed with a black overcoat, and he had his right hand inside the coat.”

The man “pulled out a white rose,” he said, explaining that Cardinal Bergoglio was “surprised” and blessed the rose.

At that moment, the man told the future pope, “You don't understand anything: This is the sign that you are waiting for.” He then smiled and handed Cardinal Bergoglio the rose.

The cardinal immediately accepted the rose, Wals said. The cardinal then told him, “Federico, Santa Teresita did not abandon me: I’m going to walk until the end of the line (of faithful).”

“At that moment, the man disappeared; we never saw each other again. Bergoglio's countenance changed. He was radiant and continued until the end.”

Wals has met with the Pope since his election as Bishop of Rome, noting that, as Pope, other similar miraculous things have happened.

One of them took place in January, while the Pope was on his way to the Philippines. During his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila, Pope Francis received a carving of St. Thérèse from French journalist Caroline Pigozzi.

After receiving the image, Francis told other journalists present, “I have the habit, when I don't know how things will go, to ask St. Thérèse the little child, St. Thérèse of Jesus, to ask her — if she takes a problem in hand, some thing — that she send me a rose.”

“I asked also for this trip: that she'd take it in hand and that she would send me a rose. But instead of a rose, she came herself to greet me,” he said.

Pigozzi spoke with CNA later, saying that she had originally found the image in a Paris flea market and had polished it herself to give to the Pope as part of a set for Christmas and for his Dec. 17 birthday.