Final Reflection on St. Therese and the Priesthood.
Love Is Poor
In the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord exclaimed: “Blessed are the Poor In Spirit…theirs is the Kingdom of God.” As St. Therese made spiritual childhood her own, so she made her own poverty of spirit. She aspires to be nothing more than “a poor little child” who looks to her Father for everything and who obtains everything from Him because of this same poverty. She cultivates this poverty and wants to keep nothing for herself, not even her merits and her good works.
“There is only one way to force the good God not to judge at all, and that is to present one’s self to Him with empty hands.” I am a firm believer that there are times in all of our lives when Our Lord gives us a taste of the clay of which we are made. We experience our littleness and our poverty. Truly, Without Him We Are Nothing. Easy to say – but the actual experience of this can be painful.
I have learned from Priests this very Theresian truth: LOVE IS POOR. Currently we don’t have a permanent chaplain. So the diocesan priests of Phoenix make many sacrifices to care for our Sacramental needs – traveling great distances to offer Mass for the Sisters. Recently one of our newly ordained priests gave a homily that drove home this point: LOVE IS POOR. He was preaching on Elijah and to the widow in Zarephath. We all know the story. Elijah asks for something to eat. She says that she does not have enough flour. Elijah responds: Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ In Father’s homily he spoke about how when we feel ‘empty’, like we don’t have enough…we need to give the VERY LITTLE that we do have to God. We can’t keep anything back for us. In this condition of poverty, emptiness, vulnerability, need: we see the power of God at work.
This newly ordained priest touched on a lesson that is so needed in our day: LOVE IS POOR. In this state of poverty there is no mistaking the work of God. Weakness is not an impediment to intimacy with God; it is a stepping-stone. Littleness is the very condition necessary for God to show His greatness. Priests experience this so often – as the Lord uses the little they have (so to speak) in mighty ways.
In the life of St Therese we learn of the following story which drives this point home:
“Sister Marie of the Eucharist wanted to light candles for a procession. She had no matches; however, seeing a little lamp that was burning in front of the relics. Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick. She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lit those of the whole community. It was therefore the half-extinguished little lamp which produced all those beautiful flames…nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light. How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?” Love is Poor…
In this final portion of this reflection: I want to focus in on the 5th Luminous Mystery of the Rosary – The Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. JESUS CHRIST TAUGHT US THAT LOVE REMAINS…
So who is a priest? Pope Benedict XVI said: “I reaffirm with conviction and deep spiritual joy that the priest is above all a man of the Eucharist.” Both the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood teach us that the Love of Jesus Christ is Present, Truly Present right here, right now. Both teach us that LOVE REMAINS.
Saint Therese has a very Eucharstic soul. She is a Eucharistic Saint. We see in her a desire to remain close to us, just as Jesus desires to remain close to us. LOVE REMAINS. Her love for God is so great that it overflows in torrents upon souls. She promised not only to look down upon us from Heaven, but to COME DOWN. In a way, she promised to REMAIN with us….and over 100 years later, we see that she kept her promise. She is truly a Eucharistic Soul.
My life is centered around adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. My desire is to remain with Him always. He is my dearest friend, my faithful spouse, my mighty redeemer. Therese too wished to remain with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. When she was 14 years old, she sent her gold bracelet to the chaplains of Montmartre so it could be melted into part of a great monstrance – a gesture that clearly expressed Therese’s desire to keep watch day and night close to Jesus in the Eucharist. As an aside, the monstrance was built and placed in Le Sacre Coeur in Paris where Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is adored perpetually – day and night – to this day. LOVE DOES SUCH THINGS…because LOVE REMAINS close to the BELOVED.
In a letter to her sister Celine, Therese said: “Celine, I feel that Jesus is asking us to slake His thirst by giving Him souls, souls of priests above all…We are so small a matter yet Jesus wills that the salvation of souls should depend on our sacrifices, our love. He is a beggar begging us for souls.” This thought was woven throughout her entire life, right up until the moment of her death. She kept nothing for herself. She understood that her vocation was to pray for priests. She went so far as to offer up her last Communion for an ex-priest, Fr. Hyacinthe Loyson, a Carmelite. She never kept anything for herself. ‘Everything I have, everything I merit, is for the good of the Church and for souls.’
Let us ask St. Therese to intercede for us, to teach us how to become intercessors for Priests. Let us ask her to teach us to pray. She did not take Jesus by the hand. She took Him by the heart. Perhaps this is the lesson she wants to teach us today.
St. THERESE, PRAY FOR PRIESTS