The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 5, 2001 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

'God is nothing but mercy and love'

God came to the Little Flower in deep and powerful ways

October 7, 2001, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What is your mission in life?

2. How does your faith find expressions?

3. What things has the Lord shown you that you might write down?

There are three women Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Therese of Lisieux. These women, outstanding in holiness and learning, are given to us as mentors and models, teachers to be listened to and witnesses to emulate.

Let us focus on just one of these Doctors of the Church: Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897). She knew the hardships of the Gospel. In fact, she was convinced that "suffering alone gives birth to souls." That is to say, she embraced the paschal mystery with full consciousness that to the degree that she participated in the life and death of Jesus, she would know the glory of the resurrection. In the last 18 months of her short life, dying at age 24, she lived with extreme physical and spiritual pain. The paradox was that though the pain was severe, her peace was profound. Such is the working of grace.

The "Little Flower" was a woman of great faith. Shortly before her death, St. Therese confided to one of her sisters: "Yes! What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not had any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant's hesitation . . ." Such was the overwhelming pain she endured. All that was needed was faith the size of a mustard seed. God came to her in deep and powerful ways.

Like the prophet Habakkuk, the Little Flower wrote down her experience of God in what is now a classic in spiritual literature: The Story of a Soul. The first part of the autobiography records memories of her early childhood; the second part describes the many secrets that Jesus revealed to her; and, the third part contains reflections on her last years of religious life. This is a story of faith and suffering, of joy and anguish, of commitment and zeal.

Several passages of her writings give evidence of how her faith grew over the years.

One passage deals with her sense of mission: "I feel that I'm about to enter into my rest. But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth . . ." Therese's faith was active and alive. She longed to do the work of evangelization, the essential message of the Church.

Another passage reads: "God is nothing but mercy and love." Too easily we conjure up a judgmental God. But for St. Therese, it was her beloved Jesus who revealed that God is Love and God is Mercy. That's all we have to know.

A third passage witnessing to a mustard seed faith: "As for me, with the exception of the Gospels, I no longer find anything in books. The Gospels are enough." It is in the Gospel that she encounters the Jesus who showed her the little way, the way of hiddenness and humility, of doing one's small daily duties as best as possible.

What is so appealing about this saint is that her way, the little way of obedience and love, is available to all. All we need is a faith the size of a mustard seed.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)

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