From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Wonder-worker as is the saint of to-day, fulfilling her dying prophecy, “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses,” she is her own greatest miracle. Her world-wide popularity, to which is united in most cases a devotion which has reorientated many a life, and in all has been a stimulus and an encouragement, is recognized to be phenomenal. It has been said with respect to doctrinal definitions that the faithful have a passive “infallibility,” whereby their need answers exactly to the definition; the same would seem to be true in the case of devotions and saints; they are given to us when and as they are needed.
In an age which worships visible efficiency which, even in the spiritual sphere, too often demands substantial material results before it will revere and believe, the saint who has won hearts—and souls— as few indeed have done, is no great religious and social reformer nor, in her lifetime, an apostle carrying the truth to the ends of the earth; nor even a preacher upon whose words crowds have hung spellbound, nor a scholar gathering around his rostrumall that was best in the intellectual world of his day; but a girl who was unknown beyond a small circle of relatives and friends. She had received no special educational advantages; she lived her life in a quiet little Norman town to which few travellers found their way. Still a child in years, but mature already in the things of God, she entered the Carmel in the same town, an obscure convent of recent foundation, barren of the historical associations which cluster around many French Carmels. For ten years she lived a life made up for the most part of religious exercises and simple domestic duties; a life, to the average man or woman of the world, colourless and monotonous, in which of necessity talents were wasted and all chance of doing good service to the world forever forfeited. At twenty-four she died of consumption, but over the simple grave accorded to such as she were placed the mysterious words: “I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.”
Shortly before her death, she, Teresa of the Child Jesus, always so humble and simple, had declared, among other startling prophetic sayings, that: All the world would love her. During the last two years of her life, in obedience to her Superiors, she had written in her scanty free time, on poor scraps of paper, an account of her life, and for this, likewise, she foretold a strange success. To-day “The Story of a Soul” has been translated into every civilized tongue; the literature which has gathered round the book and its writer would form a library, and Lisieux is one of the great pilgrimage centres of the world.
In her book the young Carmelite explained the theory and practice of her own spiritual life: her “little Way”; the “Way of Spiritual Childhood and, when dying, she spoke with a strange solemnity and certainty of the mission awaiting her in the eternal future—to teach her “Way” to souls. Too often described as something new, it is, as two Sovereign Pontiffs have pointed out, but a return to the way of the Gospels. Others have walked the same path to heaven before St. Teresa of Lisieux, but to her it has been given to show it once more to a self-sufficient, sophisticated world, and that in such wise that, to men of good will, it may be a sure and safe highway wherein even the foolish cannot err.
The Way of Spiritual Childhood stresses again that “love,” and not great outward achievement, is the fulfilling of the law; that it is character, not career, which counts; that since for most souls sanctity, if achieved at all, must be achieved in a restricted sphere, the daily round of little duties, little sacrifices, common tasks and trials, all fulfilled and accepted perfectly and for love, generous doing and suffering of the will of God, will provide all that is needful for the highest heroism. Beneath her childlike phrasing the saint has portrayed a life which calls for an unflagging generosity and courage which, united with the humility and confidence of a little child, is heroic indeed. Benedict XV has called her way “the secret of sanctity.”
And because she lived “a little one” she was “pleasing to the Most High.” All the world had loved her; popular acclamation had soon declared her a saint, but the voice which alone can pronounce thereon was not long silent. Her cause was exempted from the years of delay normally required; Pope Benedict XV pronounced the Decree of Heroicity of her virtues, and by Pius XI, now happily reigning, she was both beatified and canonized at an interval of but two years, the first beatification and the first canonization of his pontificate. Two years later the Pope declared her the special patroness of all Catholic Foreign Missions in the same rank as St. Francis Xavier.
The following lessons are assigned to the second Nocturn of her office. By special privilege of His Holiness Pius XI her feast is kept in her own convent on September 30, the anniversary of her death. In the Carmelite Order it is celebrated on October 1, and elsewhere is transferred to October 3.
The Church relates her life in the following Lessons:
Teresia a Jesu Infante, Alensonii in Gallia, honestis parentibus, singulari et assidua erga Deum pietate conspicuis, orta est. Inde a prima ætate, divino Spiritu præventa, religiosam vitam agere cupiebat. Serio autem promisit, se nihil Deo denegaturam, quod ipse ab ea petere videretur: quam promissionem fideliter usque ad mortem servare sategit. Quinto ætatis anno, matre amissa, Dei providentiæ se totam commissit sub vigilanti custodia amantissimi patris, sororumque natu majorum: quibus magistris, Teresia ad currendam perfectionis viam ut gigas exsultavit. Novennis virginibus ex Ordine Sancti Benedicti Lexoviis excolenda traditur, ibique in rerum divinarum cognitione excellere visa est. Decimo ætatis anno, arcanus et gravis morbus eam diu cruciavit, a quo prout ipsa enarrat, ope beatissimæ Virginis, quæ eidem subridens apparuit, et quam, sub titulo Dominæ Nostræ a Victoria, per. novendialia invocare studuit, divinitus fuitliberata. Tunc, angelico fervore repleta, ad sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur, se diligentissimæ præparare curavit.
Ut primitus eucharistico pane fuit refecta, insatiabilem cælestis hujus cibi famem haurire visa est: unde volut inspirata, Jesum rogabat, ut omnem mundanam consolationem in amaritudinem sibi verteret. Indo tenerrimum in Christum Dominum et in Ecelesiam amore exæstuans, nihil antiquius liabuit, quam Carmelitarum Excalccatorum Ordinem ingredi, ut sui abnegatione, suisque sacrificiis, sacerdotibus, missionariis, totique Ecclesiæ opem afferret, et innumeras ani; mas Christo Jesu lucrifaceret: quod jam morti proxima, apud Deum se facturam pollicita est. Propter ætatis defectum, multas ad religiosam vitam amplectendam nacta est difficultates, quibus tamen incredibili animi fortitudine superatis, quindecim annos nata, Lexoviensem Carmelum feliciter ingressa est. Ibi mirabiles Deus in Teresiæ corde ascensiones disposuit, quæ, Mariæ Virginis vitam absconditam imitata, quasi hortus irriguus, flores omnium virtutum germinavit, præcipue vero eximiæ in Deum et in proximum caritatis.
Quo magis Altissimo placeret, quum in Sacris Scripturis monitum illud legisset: Si quis est parvulus veniat ad me; parvula in spiritu esse voluit, et inde filiali fiducia Deo, tamquam Patri amantissimo, se perpetuo tradidit. Hanc, spiritualis infantiæ viam, secundum Evangelii doctrinam, alios docuit, speciatim novitias, quas ex obedientia ad religiosarum virtutum studium informandas suscepit, atque ita apostolico zelo repleta, mundo, superbia inflato et vanitates diligenti, evangelicæ simplicitatis iter patefecit. Sponsus autem Jesus eam patiendi desiderio, tam in anima, quam in corpore, penitus inflammavit. Insuper, Dei caritatem undequaque neglectam animadvertens, summo dolore affecta, duobus ante obitum annis, Dei miserentis amori se victimam obtulit. Tunc, ut ipsa refert, cælestis ignis fiamma vulnerata est: unde caritate consumpta, in ecstasim rapta, ferventissime ingeminans: Deus meus, te diligo; viginti quatuor annos nata, die trigesima Septembris, anno millesimo octingentesimo nonagesimo septimo, ad Sponsum evolavit. Quod autem moriens promiserat, se perennem rosarum pluviam in terramdemissuram, hoc in cælum recepta, innumeris miraculis reapse adimplevit et in dies adimplet. Quare Pius undecimus, Pontifex Maximus, die vigesima nona April is anno millesimo nongentesimo vigesimo tertio, eam inter Beatas Virgines adscripsit; quam, novis fulgentem prodigi is, biennio post, jubilæo maximo recurrente, decimo sexto kalendas junias, solemniter Sanctorum fastis accensuit.
Teresa of the Child Jesus was bom at Alençon, in France, of respectable parents noted for their singular and constant piety. She was imbued with the grace of the divine Spirit from earliest childhood and desired to lead the religious life. She made an earnest promise that she would deny God nothing which He seemed to ask of her, and strove to observe it faithfully until death. She lost her mother when she was only five years old and committed herself wholly to divine providence, under the watchful care of her affectionate father and her elder sisters. Under such teachers Teresa exulted as a giant to run the way of perfection. At the age of nine, she was placed in the school of the Benedictine nuns at Lisieux, where she was remarkable for her progress in the knowledge of divine things. In her tenth year she suffered from a serious and mysterious illness, from which, as she herself relates, she was delivered by the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to her smiling, during a novena which she made to her under the title of our Lady of Victories. Then, filled with an gelie fervour, she began to prepare herself with all care for that sacred banquet “wherein Christ is received.”
After her first communion she felt an insatiable hunger for this heavenly food and, as if by inspiration, besought Jesus to turn all earthly consolation to bitterness for her. She was filled with a tender and burning love for Christ and the Church, and desired with all her heart to enter the Order of Discalced Carmelites, in order by self-abnegation and self-sacrifice to help priests, missionaries, and the whole Church, and to gain innumerable souls for Jesus Christ: all which, when at the point of death, she promised that she would obtain from God. Her extreme youth was the source of many difficulties for her entrance into religion, but she. overcame them by her incredible fortitude of soul, and entered the Carmel of Lisieux at the age of fifteen. God disposed the heart of Teresa in a wonderful manner to ascend to. Him by steps, and, imitating the hidden life of the Virgin Mary, she brought forth, like a well-watered garden, the flowers of all virtues, particularly charity towards God and her neighbour.
She read in the Holy Scripture the words: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me,” and desiring to please the Most High, determined to be a little one in spirit, and thus committed herself with childlike confidence to God as to a most loving Father. This path of spiritual childhood, according to the Gospel, she taught to others, especially the novices, whose training in the religious virtues she undertook out of obedience; and thus she set the way of evangelical simplicity before a world full of pride and of the love of vanities. Her heavenly Spouse inspired her with the desire of suffering in soul and body. Moreover, seeing that the love of God was almost everywhere neglected, she was filled with great grief, and two years before her death offered herself as a victim to the love of the merciful God. Then, *as she herself relates, she was wounded by a flame of heavenly fire. At last, consumed by charity, rapt in ecstasy, and murmuring with all fervour the words: My God, I love thee, she passed to her heavenly Spouse on September 30, 1897, at the age of twentyfour. When dying she promised that she would let fall a ceaseless shower of roses upon the earth, which promise she has actually fulfilled since her entrance into heaven, and continues still to fulfil by countless miracles. Therefore, Pope Pius XI enrolled her in the catalogue of blessed virgins on April 29, 1923, and two years later, after more wonderful miracles, proceeded on the sixteenth of the kalends of June (May 17), to her solemn canonization.