Love in the Heart of the Church

Today is the feastday of St. Therese.

St. Therese desired to do so many things for Christ. As she put it in one of her writings addressed to Jesus:

To be Your Spouse, to be a Carmelite, and by my union with You to be the Mother of souls, should not this suffice me? And yet it is not so. No doubt, these three privileges sum up my true vocation: Carmelite, Spouse, Mother, and yet I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR. Finally, I feel the need and the desire of carrying out the most heroic deeds for You, O Jesus. I feel within my soul the courage of the Crusader, the Papal Guard, and I would want to die on the field of battle in defence of the Church.”

These ”other vocations” existing alongside her “true vocation” are desires, desires to serve Christ by all the great means with which he can be served. When she says that she feels the location of the priest, it is not in the skewed way that the advocates of “women’s ordination” demand for themselves. Her desires are not what God objectively wills for her, rather, they are expressions of the magnanimity and generosity of her soul. Simply put, she wanted to be all for Jesus.

It was in reading the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians that St. Therese realized that her vocation was to be love in the heart of her Mother the Church. St. Paul speaks of the mystical body of Christ as having many members (1Cor. 12). If there are many members of the mystical body of Christ, including hands and feet, there must also be a heart (1Cor. 13). The Little Flower described this revelation of hers:

“When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

“Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”

In doing everything with love for God, and putting up with difficulties great and small, and keeping silent when she wanted to defend herself, St. Therese shows us what holiness is all about—love. Love is the driving force that changes the world.

And she knew that without the grace of the Master who “loved us to the end,” she could do nothing.

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