(A continuation of the personal account of the journey through life with Saint Therese by the creator of this website)
I think one of the most profound influences Thérèse has had on me is how I approach the Saints. I firmly believe that indeed the Saints choose us and not us them. This seems to be so not only with Thérèse but all the other saints I’m devoted to because with Thérèse as the keystone all of the rest of the Saints I’m devoted to make sense.
For example: the patron of my home parish is Saint Veronica who ultimately was the origin of devotion to the Holy Face and it is the image of her veil imprinted with the bloody face of our Lord that Thérèse always with her. Also, the saints and holy men who have always most inspired me were some of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church: Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Joseph Damian de Veuster, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Vincent Ferrer, Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Father Vincent Capodanno, Father Gereon Goldmann OFM, and of course my patrons Saint Luke the Evangelist who traveled with THE missionary himself: Saint Paul, Saint Luke Kirby a missionary back to his beloved home of England which had succumbed to Protestantism and at whose hands he would be killed, and Blessed Lucas of Saint Joseph OCD who was a missionary in the United States for a time before returning to Spain to be martyred during the revolution in the 1930s.
This is significant because Thérèse is now the Patroness of the Missions along with the glorious co-worker of Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Saint Francis Xavier. This is why, in part at least, that the two greatest missionaries of the 20th century took her as their patron: Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who was for a time the Secretary of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith; and Blessed Mother Teresa founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who took her name not from Teresa of Avila as some have thought but rather from the Little Flower. Thérèse would also take on two spiritual sons: seminarian Maurice Belliere and missionary priest Adolphe Roulland. While I was still in seminary I read the letters between Thérèse and abbe Belliere and it made for great spiritual reading indeed.
Many people know that one of her favorite saints was Saint Joan of Arc, because of the “pious recreation” she wrote about her and stared in and the pictures of her dressed up as her favorite saint taken by Celine with the camera she brought into Carmel are well known by many. It is thanks to Celine in great part for many of the pictures we have of Thérèse after she entered the cloister. But it is her other favorite saint that is very interesting because he is very little known, but here is what she says about him:
“I have read the lives of many missionaries. One I’ve read is the life of Théophane Vénard, which interested me and touched me more than I can say…I like Théophane Vénard even more than Saint Louis de Gonzaga, because the life of Saint Louis de Gonzaga was extraordinary and Théophane Vénard’s was quite ordinary…My soul is like his. He is the one who has best lived my way of spiritual childhood.” (To her sisters, March 1897)
Here we see clearly stated what attracted Thérèse to a saint and even more than this we see a very important aspect of devotion to saints. What are the saints for? Why does holy mother Church hold them up before us in the way that she does? In small part it is to honor these holy men and women but much more it is to raise them up as examples to be followed, and this is why there are so many different saints because there are so many different kinds of people and thus there is a saint for everyone. And it is also very important, in my opinion, that one can come to really know their special saint because the better they know them and can see how they dealt with their own struggles and overcame them to be saints so they can then be imitated.
Now the great blessing with Thérèse is that you really can learn so much about her because of all the information we have about her and the great work of research done by Bishop Guy Gaucher the author of her official biography and several other books on her as well the editor of several editions of her writings. It is by this biography, the best I’ve ever read on a saint, and the importance of really getting to know a saint to be devoted to them that I judge all saints lives. And having read many of these I have discovered that many if not most are simply lists of incredible miracles and astounding feats which while they are inspiring and uplifting in their own way most certainly give us no example to be followed.
It is important then to find a biography on your chosen saint that is real and shows their faults and failings and then most importantly shows how they overcame them and became a saint. This is the true hallmark of great saint’s life. One author who was in incredible expert at writing incredibly accurate and well researched accounts of saints lives and who could present them as real people with real faults that they overcame to become saints is: Abbe Francois Trochu who is famous for having written the official biography of the Cure de Ars and who also wrote the official biography of Saint Bernadette Soubirous which also contains one of, if not the most, complete and accurate account of the apparitions at Lourdes in existence.
Now after hearing so much about Saint Theophane from Thérèse I desired to know more about this saint loved so much by my favorite saint, and as God’s providence would have it as I was waiting before an ordination with nothing to do I walked into the library of the parish and walked up directly to an old looking book entitled: “A Modern Martyr”, and decided to pick it up and start reading and to my astonishment this was a biography of Saint Theophane! Thérèse had done it again. Unfortunately, I had to leave it there but I was able to later obtain a copy and I even found a digital copy on the Internet for free! And which you can find here. This is another wonder biography which I would highly recommend to you, especially for any young man considering the priesthood.
Now to conclude I would like to share with you two of Thérèse’ wonderful poems. The first is on her favorite Saint Theophane Venard, of whom she was so blessed to receive a first class relic which was given to her by his very own brother who also became a priest: Father Eusebius Venard. I originally found this poem in the back of the copy of A Modern Martyr and found it very beautiful indeed. Then in honor of today’s wonderful feast of the Holy Guardian Angels I will share with you her poem to her own Guardian Angel.
To the Venerable Theophane Venard, Martyr
February 2, 1897
O Theophane, angelic martyr blest!
All the elect to sing thy praise aspire;
And thee to hail, behold! there stand confest
The Seraphim, with love divine on fire.
I, a poor exile still on this dull earth,
Can not with them my joyful song combine;
Yet will I take my harp, and sing thy worth,
And claim thee as a kindred soul to mine.
Thy brief bright sojourn here was like a psalm
Of heavenly melody, all hearts upraising;
Thy poet nature sang sweet songs like balm,
Through all thy life thy dearest Saviour praising.
Writing thy farewell thy last earthly night,
That farewell was a song of Spring and love,
“I, little butterfly, the first take flight,
Of all our loved ones, to our home above.”
Thou, happy martyr! in the hour of death
Didst taste the deep delight of suffering:
Thou didst declare, e’en with thy dying breath,
That it is sweet to suffer for the King.
When the stern headsman made thee offer fair
Thy torture to abridge, how swift thy word:
“Oh, blest am I my Master’s cup to share!
Long let my suffering last with Christ my Lord!”
O virginal lily! life had but begun,
When Jesus heard thy loving heart’s desire.
I see in thee a flower whose race is run,
Yet his hand plucked it but to lift it higher.
And now, no longer, exile dost thou know;
Thy ecstasy the Blest exult to see.
Thou Rose of love! the Virgin white as snow
Rejoices in thy heavenly purity.
Soldier of Christ, thy armor lend to me!
For sinners’ souls I long to give my life;
For them to give my tears, my blood, like thee:
Protect me then, and arm me for the strife!
For them I fain would fight, till life is done; —
God’s kingdom take by force, their souls to save.
“Not peace to earth I bring,” (so spake God’s Son),
“But fire and sword I bring.” Oh, saving glaive!
How dear is now to me that pagan horde,
The object of thy burning love below;
If Jesus would to me such grace accord,
Ah, thither with what ardor would I go.
Before Him space and distance fade away.
This earth is but a plaything on the breeze;
My actions, my small sufferings to-day,
Can make my Jesus loved beyond the seas.
Oh, were I but a fading springtime flower,
That soon the Lord would gather to His breast!
Come down, O Theophane, at my last hour;
Come down for me, thou youthful martyr blest!
Come, with the virginal flames of purest love,
Come, burn from out my soul all earthly clay,
That I may fly to heaven’s courts above,
And join thy cohort in unending day.
To My Angel Guardian
O glorious guardian of my frame!
In heaven’s high courts thou shinest bright,
As some most pure and holy flame,
Before the Lord of endless light.
Yet for my sake thou com’st to earth,
To be my brother, Angel dear:
My friend and keeper from my birth,
By day and night to me most near.
Knowing how weak a child am I,
By thy strong hand thou guidest me;
The stones that in my pathway lie,
I see thee move them carefully.
Ever thy heavenly tones invite
My soul to look to God alone;
And ever grows thy face more bright,
When I more meek and kind have grown.
O thou who speedest through all space
More swiftly than the lightnings fly!
Go very often, in my place,
To those I love most tenderly.
With thy soft touch, oh! dry their tears;
Tell them the cross is sweet to bear;
Speak my name softly in their ears,
And Jesu’s name, supremely fair.
Through all my life, though brief it be,
I fain would succor souls from sin.
Dear Angel, sent from heaven to me,
Kindle thy zeal my heart within!
Naught but my holy poverty,
And daily cross to give have I;
O join them to thine ecstasy,
And offer them to God on high.
Thine are heaven’s glory and delight,
The riches of the King of kings;
The Host in our ciboriums bright
Is mine, and all the wealth pain brings.
So with the Cross, and with the Host,
And with thine aid, dear Angel Friend,
I wait in peace, on time’s dark coast,
Heaven’s happiness that knows no end.