Counting Down to Thérèse
User's Guide to Sunday, Sept. 23.
Sept. 23 is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year B, Cycle II).
There are several popular saints to celebrate this week.
Sept. 26: Sts. Cosmas and Damien, medical doctors who were martyred for their faith in 301. Pray for Catholic identity in Catholic hospitals today.
Sept. 27: St. Vincent De Paul (1581-1660). Give something to the poor today.
Sept. 29: The archangels Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Pray a Rosary (which quotes St. Gabriel’s “Hail Mary”) and add a St. Michael prayer today.
Sept. 30: St. Jerome (347-420), Bible translator. Read a chapter of the Gospels today.
Wisdom 2:17-20, Psalm 54:3-8, James 3:16 – 4:3, Mark 9:30-37
This Sunday is the day to start a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux if you want to finish it on her feast day, Oct. 1.
Novenas to the Little Flower are very popular – and those who find success with them often report receiving a rose in confirmation that their petition was heard.
But St. Thérèse didn’t only leave a promise to rain graces down from heaven. She also left a spirituality for us to follow.
Today’s readings happen to be a good introduction to her spirituality.
Start with the Old Testament reading.
“The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings,” says the Book of Wisdom, describing the suffering the world will visit on those who try to be saints. “Let us condemn him to a shameful death.”
St. Thérèse was well aware of the suffering that follows holiness. She said: “I realized that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself. I understood that there were many kinds of sanctity and that each soul was free to respond to the approaches of Our Lord and to do little or much for him. … Then, just as when I was a child, I cried: ‘My God, I choose all. I do not want to be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for you. I fear only one thing — that I should keep my own will. So take it, for I choose all that you will.’”
Today’s second reading is from James. He writes: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.”
He describes the simple, small virtues that make up a good life.
These small, simple virtues were the center of St. Thérèse’s spirituality, which she called the “Little Way.” She wrote to her sister:
“God would not make me wish for something impossible, and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new. [...] It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less.”
Lastly, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the apostles to have a special regard for children.
St. Thérèse took the name of the Child Jesus as her religious name, and she celebrated this special regard God has for children.
Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
As Thérèse wrote to her sister: “I once told you how astonished I was that God does not give equal glory in heaven to all his chosen. I was afraid they were not at all equally happy. You made me bring Daddy’s tumbler and put it by the side of my thimble. You filled them both with water and asked me which was fuller. I told you they were both full to the brim and that it was impossible to put more water in them than they could hold. And so … you made me understand that in heaven God will give his chosen their fitting glory and that the last will have no reason to envy the first.”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.