Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
THE COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL: OCTOBER 8th, 2017 A.D. - St. THERESE OF LISIEUX
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the Feast of the great Carmelite Doctor of the Church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, celebrated on October 3 (MR '62). In the new calendar (MR '70), she is commemorated on October 1. Below is the translation of the Collect from the MR '62 in the Angelus Press edition of the Daily Roman Missal:
"O LORD, Who hast said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven: grant unto us, we beseech Thee, so to follow in humility and simplicity of heart the footsteps of Saint Teresa, the Virgin, that we may obtain everlasting rewards: Who livest and reignest, etc. Amen."
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is a beloved saint of many Catholics, and, I suspect, of many non-Catholics, too. Many testify to miracles and interventions, small or great, in connection with her Novena. More importantly, however, her popularity centers around the simplicity of her "little way," a spirituality rooted in the words of Jesus quoted in the Collect's ascription clause: "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (cf. Mt. 18:3, RSV). We can read about it in her autobiography, The Story of A Soul.
In the Gospels, Jesus frequently calls us to conversion. Among these repeated calls, we can cite the first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (cf, Mt. 5:3, RSV). All eight Beatitudes call us to find true happiness in the recognition our spiritual poverty before God as His creatures, and thus, our utter dependence upon Him for all things, but especially His grace to become saints and to enter heaven (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 305, 308, 1717-1719, 1721-1723). The evidence that happiness can only be found in poverty of spirit is ubiquitous (examine your own conscience; read/watch the news!).
Beyond this fundamental relation of creature to Creator, however, those who are baptized have an even greater relation to God, for Baptism makes us children of God in the proper sense. Jesus incorporates us into His own relationship with the Father through the bestowal of His Holy Spirit in Baptism, and thus, He gives us a filial identity as beloved children. We find this in the New Testament frequently (cf. Mt. 28:19; Lk. 3:21-22; Jn. 1:12-14, 3:3-5, 7:37-39, 14:15-23, 17:6-11, 17-26; Acts 2:38, Rom. 8:14-17; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Jn. 3:1-3, 4:13, 5:1-12).
For St. Thérèse, this filial identity in Christ through Baptism, as well as the above-mentioned creaturely dependence upon God, go hand-in-hand, and they raise us up right to the heart of God. Why do they do this? At their root, creaturely dependence and filial relation to God embody the essential virtues of humility and charity, without which we cannot have a spiritual life, let alone enter heaven. This is the essence of spiritual childhood, her "little way." One need not become a third order Carmelite, or have any contact with Carmelite spirituality, to apply this principle to life, for it lies at the heart of our human nature and our baptismal identity. May this great Saint, loved by so many, lead us more deeply into what is most fundamental.(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.