Happy Feast of St. Andrew!
It may seem funny to top our post with a picture of His many fans adoring baby Jesus when here it is only the beginning of Advent, but I think St. Andrew is inviting us today to get ready. It is, after all, the day we can start our special prayer to obtain favors by imploring our Heavenly Father through the merits of the blessed hour and moment of Jesus' birth . . . and then, I'm finding Advent to have come upon us so quickly that I need to remind myself of the very simple reason for the season: the infinite love of our Savior and God!
The Magnificat had a beautiful meditation this week that came from the pen of Servant of God Archbishop Luis Maria Martinez, and I knew I had to share it here in case you hadn't seen it. We at Miss Marcel's Musings are huge fans of the book I Believe in Love, and this meditation - though not from that book - encapsulates the message of I Believe in Love, of little St. Therese, of Marcel - of Jesus Himself! - so very well! If you have seen this meditation already, I bet you'll enjoy reading it again! So here it is, from dear Archbishop Martinez, with thanks to Magnificat for printing it:
"God's love has all the characteristics of the love we idealize in our ardent dreams, for we all dream; it so becomes the human heart to dream. Yes, we want to be loved with a deep, tender, consuming love. Half measures do not satisfy us . . . Now let me assure you of this: Jesus loves us more, infinitely more, than we desire, more than we dare to dream of. Sometimes our dreams seem bold, almost absurd; nevertheless, they are far below reality. It is this very magnitude of God's love that so frequently disconcerts us. We think: 'It is an exaggeration to say God loves me like that. If not even I can love myself that way, how is it possible that God does so? No, that is an excess.' Right, it is an excess; infinite love has to be so. The Incarnation, the manger, Nazareth, the Cenacle, Gethsemane, Calvary - each was an excess . . . In comparison with our smallness, infinite love must necessarily be an excess. Yet how difficult to convince souls that God so loves them. If they could be convinced, how many anxieties would be alleviated.
"We may go a step farther. God's love for us is not a sterile love, confined to heaven; it is an active love, provident, watchful, solicitous; it is a love that does not forget us one moment, that protects us unceasingly, that keeps arranging minutely all the events of our life from the most far-reaching to the most insignificant. I am not exaggerating; Jesus Himself affirmed it: No hair of your head shall perish. Some persons may consider this hyperbole. Perhaps, but at any rate it is a hyperbole expressive of the solicitude, the constancy, the minute care of God's love for us. Consider a mother caring for her first babe, watching at his cradle, ever mindful of his needs, anxious lest he weep or become ill. The devotion of such a mother cannot match even remotely the constant, minute, tender solicitude of our Lord. If only we had the faith to understand this. Not for one moment does our Lord turn His eyes away from us, nor does His hand cease to guide us; at each instant of our lives His power protects us and His love enfolds us. And if this is true, if God's solicitude for us is loving, unalterable, most tender, what reason have we to be disturbed? Can a child in his mother's arms be disturbed?"
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How eager Jesus is to make us understand this infinitely tender solicitous Love that brought Him from Heaven to earth! There are so many things that might (and will) distract us this Advent, and yet what we can return to, what the Holy Spirit wants us to remember (and He will remind us, don't worry!), is the simple but unutterably magnificent fact that God became man: that the Father sent the Son to live with us, first as a baby, then growing through the years into a man, the Man whom Andrew met and followed and invites us to follow.
Just little baby Jesus, with Mary and Joseph behind Him, ready to hold Him out to us for our embrace and our kiss. And He has made Himself so kissable!
As to gifts, He is The Gift, we know that, but then He likes us to ask for others. He knows every smidgen of our anxiety for our loved ones, of the pain in the world, of the intentions commended to us and that we are commending to yet others. So here is the prayer we can say beginning today, on St. Andrew's feast. all the way up to Christmas. I love this prayer because it reminds me of Jesus' birth in the silence and dark of the night which was then lit by God Incarnate. And although I have heard it recommended that one say this prayer 15 times a day, well, that would cease to remind me of Jesus' birth and instead become (for me) an act of compulsion and confusion, so please feel free to be very little and say this prayer now, and once a day if you love it - or however often it delights you to delight Jesus in saying it! (And if 15 times a day is delightful and sweet for you, that is wonderful too!) I thought it might be fun to ask for 15 favors (since intentions seem to be piling up over here), but however you approach this prayer, may it bring you joy and Jesus! Here it is:
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother, Amen.
I can't imagine how many sweet favors God has in mind for us, along with the sweetest favor of Himself. I hope you will be able to receive Him in Holy Communion soon, so that His sweetness will sweeten your waiting (or rather, help you wait as you fulfill your little Christmas preparations) - and this too is marvelous! Jesus loves us so much that He can't wait for Christmas to come to us! He is happy to come to us each day, to even stay with us between times (as St. Therese experienced in her Eucharistic Miracle and we explain in Something New with St. Therese), and really, how can we be surprised? Love requires union, and Jesus is all-powerful. May His union with us this Advent prepare us for His union with us this Christmas. As He frequently repeats to Marcel, He is holding us close and covering us unceasingly with kisses. May you find your anxieties relieved and your fears quieted by the knowledge of His nearness and His insistence on keeping you close to Him forever!
Draw me, we will run!
"I will spend my heaven doing good on the earth. I will let fall a shower of roses."
- St. Therese
The official Thanksgiving day of this year may have passed, but we have so much to be grateful for that I think an octave of thanks (at least) is in order! Now that the big feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie is behind us (with maybe some leftovers ahead), what a wonderful opportunity we have to thank God in a more leisurely way for His endless benefits.
One thing I'm thankful for is the opportunity I had last week to speak to the girls at Thomas Aquinas College. We met in St. Monica's dorm and, armed with relics of St. Therese and St. Thomas, I joyfully told them about St. Therese, her Little Way, her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, and last but not least, her "Something New" that I've written about in Something New with St. Therese, Her Eucharistic Miracle.
I've done some editing, but here, essentially, is the talk I gave (minus the tangents, digressions, and laughter, but I'll leave those to your guardian angel to fill in). What a gift to share God's infinite love with the college girls by sharing St. Therese and her mission of helping us love Him like she does. Thank You, Jesus! And now, I'm delighted to share St. Therese and her mission with you! So here, below the stars, is my talk.
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I first met St. Therese early in my freshmen year here and I still remember the date: October 7, 1983. A new friend who was a senior explained to me what a holy hour is and how awesome it is to sign up for the middle of the night, like 3 am, and go out of your dorm in the dark and the silence, and meet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel and talk with Him in this intimate meeting – totally unusual and romantic! So I signed up and she loaned me a book called the Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese, and I only read a little of it in the holy hour, but I was immediately captivated because I hadn’t really come across this message before about how we could be simply ourselves with God, just like little children.
A couple years later David O’Reilly, now a famous winemaker and brother of the president here, but then just a nice guy in my class, asked me if I’d ever read Story of a Soul, St. Therese’s autobiography. He thought I’d really like it, so I read it that summer, between junior and senior year, and it blew me away. Every page was like being right there with Therese and Jesus, and it helped me understand how close Jesus wants to be to us. So I kept following her lead, from one book to the next over the years, asking her help in lots of things, taking her name when my husband and I became third order Carmelites, and as the decades went by, I kept learning as much as I could about her – and on her side she kept showing up and changing my life in various ways, always for the better, and giving me the courage for whatever was next.
Well tonight I’m going to talk to you in particular about St. Therese and her Eucharistic miracle. And the first thing to say about this miracle is that I didn’t notice it in my first thirty years of knowing and loving St. Therese and reading everything I could get my hands on about her! After all that time, I discovered it just a few years ago at a talk given here by Fr. Michael Gaitley. He wrote 33 Days to Morning Glory, the book you can use for Marian consecration, but he also wrote a book called 33 Days to Merciful Love, all about St. Therese and her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.
I don’t know if all of you know St. Therese very well, so I’ll tell you first a few key things about her, and then I’ll tell you about her Eucharistic Miracle and how she wants you to get involved.
Therese was born in 1873, the youngest in a very loving family, and from her parents and siblings she learned a lot about being loved. Her parents are Sts. Louis and Zelie, the first married couple ever to be canonized together. Both her brothers and two sisters died very young, but her four living sisters all ended up becoming nuns, and three of them, Pauline, Marie, and Celine, were Carmelites where she was, in the Carmel of Lisieux. Her religious name was St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and she became a Discalced Carmelite when she was just 15 and died when she was only 24, in 1897. Because she lived in the late 1800’s, it might seem normal to you that she became a nun at 15, but even then that was super unusual and she had to get special permission to do it, but since God had planned for her to die at 24 (or as she liked to say, she was entering Life at that point) it’s a good thing she entered the Carmelite monastery at 15, because that gave her just 9 years to figure out her Little Way to become a saint.
She had a very deep experience of God’s infinite love, first in her family, but then from Him directly, though without having the kind of visions or big mystical experiences we might imagine when we think of the saints. She lived a very small, hidden, ordinary life, so much so that when she was dying, one of the small group of religious sisters she lived with, knowing they’d send out an obituary to the other Carmelite monasteries, said, “What will we find to say about her?” and a few years later when the idea of her having a cause for sainthood was suggested, her own blood sister Leonie, who knew her well, said, “She was nice, but a Saint?” And her uncle was positively appalled and opposed to it!
So you may think at first, Oh, St. Therese, she’s a huge saint . . . and she is now that she’s in heaven, but on earth she was very ordinary and specifically said that she wanted everything she did to be imitable – able to be imitated by other ordinary people like us! And she was very serious about that. For instance, when she was dying, her sister Pauline said, “Perhaps you’ll die tomorrow on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel right after you’ve received Holy Communion” And Therese responded that she wouldn’t want that because little souls couldn’t imitate it. Another time they talked to her about the saints who were incorrupt (their bodies haven’t decomposed after hundreds of years), and again she said, “Nope, I’m not going to be incorrupt, little souls couldn’t imitate that!” And she wasn’t! She also was never capable of big mortifications – trying to do them would make her sick – and so, one of my favorite stories about her is that when her fingers got sticky, she wouldn’t wash them right away, she’d offer that up. Which I have to say is for me a huge mortification, but you can see it fits this pattern of littleness. So in a thousand ways she was very ordinary, although her love for God and her confidence in Him – exactly what she wants to share with us – are extraordinary and quite huge.
One particular thing I love about St. Therese which I find makes her more like us than we expect a saint to be is that she wasn’t necessarily good at what she was supposed to be doing. She’s a great one to ask for help if you’re having trouble with your basic duties! Her main duty in the Carmel was prayer, and she was constantly – I mean really constantly – falling asleep at prayer in the chapel. They would kneel on the bare floor to pray, and she’d wake up at the end of prayer time, her head on the floor again! And when she was assigned chores, she didn’t always do a good job – she’d never had to sweep at home, and so she swept terribly in the Carmel and was also super afraid of spiders, which made her sweeping even worse! But she thought about these failures, and she realized that they didn’t make her any less adorable to God, her loving Father. Parents love their children even when their children are inept! And parents love to watch their children sleeping, so she just figured that when she slept at prayer, God delighted in that too!
All of her realizations came to fruition in what became known as her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood, which she described in these words:
"It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted about nothing, and not to be set on gaining our living. Even among the poor, they give the child what is necessary, but as soon as he grows up, his father no longer wants to feed him and says: 'Work now, you can take care of yourself.'
"It was so as not to hear this that I never wanted to grow up, feeling that I was incapable of making my living, the eternal life of heaven. I've always remained little, therefore, having no other occupation but to gather flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice, and of offering them to God in order to please Him.
"To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in the hands of His little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God's treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one's faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much."
Two more things about St. Therese, and then we’ll get to her Eucharistic Miracle.
First, she’s a great saint to know because she LOVES to come down and help with all the particular situations we get ourselves into. When she was dying, her sisters were distraught at losing her, and one day Pauline asked hopefully but I imagine anxiously, “You’ll look down upon us from heaven, won’t you?” and Therese replied instantly, “No, I will come down!” And she meant that literally!
I love when people use the word literally but they don’t really mean it literally. Like if someone says, “It literally blew my mind!” but there’s this person standing in front of you, his head totally intact. Well with St. Therese, she literally does come down (and I want to add that Padre Pio is like this too) – for instance, during World War I, soldiers fighting on both sides would have the experience of being saved by a nurse dragging them away from their positions so they wouldn’t be blown up or killed, and later they would see a picture of St. Therese (she was only Sister Therese then) and say, “That was the nurse who saved me!” Except that she had died in 1897 and come down from heaven to save them in the years between 1914 and 1917! There’s a whole book that’s recently been republished in English – a book of letters from soldiers telling of how she saved them. St. Therese had told her sisters before she died that they would find her in the mailbox, and sure enough, their tiny monastery in this little town in France got hundreds of letters a day from people all over the world telling how Sister Therese had helped them, healed them, and saved their lives. And while that began over a hundred years ago, her interest in us continues to this day – she promised – literally - to come down until the end of time, and fulfill her mission of making God loved as she loved Him, so definitely become friends with her if you aren’t already and ask her for whatever you need! She also promised to shower roses, and she’s known for that – she loves giving roses at the end of a novena.
Second, and our final thing to know biographically about Therese, is that in 1997, a hundred years after her death, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her the 33rd and by far the youngest Doctor of the Church, and he wrote a great apostolic letter to go with her doctorate, called “The Science of Divine Love” – which was the science Therese knew and wants to teach us.
So now let’s get to the discovery at the heart of my book, a discovery Jesus has been waiting a couple thousand years to reveal, and something that, if not entirely new in the Church, has been extremely hidden until recently.
In his letter for her doctorate, Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “At the summit, as the source and goal (of her message) is the merciful love of the three Divine Persons, as she expresses it, especially in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.” In other words, St. Therese’s main teaching for us is about God’s infinitely Merciful Love, and she most perfectly expresses this in a prayer and offering she made called the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.
This is what Fr. Gaitley’s book was about, the Act of Oblation, and my book is about one tiny part of that Act of Oblation, a particular sentence that requests her Eucharistic Miracle. So before we get to the Eucharistic miracle, we need to know a little about Therese’s Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.
You may have heard of Saints who’ve offered themselves as victims to God’s justice. St. Therese knew of this type of offering, and it didn’t attract her at all. One night she heard read aloud an obituary notice of a Carmelite nun who had recently died after offering herself as a victim to God’s justice. It prompted Therese to do something very different as she tells us in Story of a Soul. She writes:
“This year, June 9, the feast of the Holy Trinity, I received the grace to understand more than ever before how much Jesus desires to be loved. I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God’s Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sinners, drawing these punishments upon themselves. This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it. From the depths of my heart, I cried out: ‘O my God! Will Your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does not Your Merciful Love need them too? On every side this love is unknown, rejected… Is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You. . . Oh my Jesus, let me be this happy victim!’”
So Therese, when she was a 22, had this awesome inspiration to offer herself to Merciful Love instead of to Justice, and after she made the offering, she had her sister Celine, who was a Carmelite with her, make it too, and for that she wrote out her Act of Oblation so it would be a formal prayer they could say together. Then she invited others close to her to offer themselves, and here’s one of my favorite reactions:
She and her oldest sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, also a Carmelite with her, were out in the fields raking hay, and St. Therese proposed to Marie that she too offer herself to Merciful Love. Marie immediately shot back, “No way! I don’t want to ask for suffering! I hate suffering!” I paraphrase but she was speaking French, so this is a pretty good translation I think! And I love it because I hope I would’ve had the courage to be so direct! I hate suffering too! But it gets better because Therese explained to Marie that this Act was not inviting suffering, but inviting God to pour out His infinite Love that’s been rejected by so many. In the Act of Oblation (and there’s a copy printed in the back of the book) we offer ourselves to receive the Love of God others have rejected, and we ask Him to allow the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within Him to overflow into our souls, and in that way we satisfy His infinite desire to love us. Therese was so convincing that Marie ended up not only making the offering herself, but spending the rest of her life convincing others she wrote to that they should make it too!
I first came across the Act of Oblation when I was a student here, and since then I’ve said it hundreds of times, but it’s a long prayer, and over the years I haven’t always said the whole thing. When Fr. Gaitley came along with his book about the Act, his enthusiasm inspired me to try to really pray and mean the whole prayer from beginning to end, every word.
And that’s when I became aware of a petition St. Therese makes a few paragraphs into the Act, a petition which somehow I’d never thought about, but now the more I did think about it, the more it stunned me, and the more I realized that she was either totally crazy or she had the most fabulous, outrageous idea in the world. And not only was she asking God for something outrageous, but she wants us to ask for it too, which is why I ended up needing to write a whole book to convince myself and others that this was for real.
So what is it she asks?
Her petition follows a little argument to convince God why He should give her what she asks, and this is what she says. Are you ready? Therese prays:
“My Beloved Spouse told us in the days of His mortal life: “Whatsoever you ask the Father in My name He will give it to you!” I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! That the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but Lord, are You not All-Powerful? [And now here comes the petition:] Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.”
So Therese asks Jesus, and maybe you can see why I blew by this the first few hundred times I said the prayer, because it’s just a little sentence: “Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.” And now I’m going to explain why, once I really paid attention to what she was asking (and inviting us to ask), I thought either she was crazy or I was.
When we receive Holy Communion, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity Incarnate. Jesus, true God and true man.
There’s another doctrine of our faith that you may have forgotten or may not have learned yet (because there’s so much to learn in life!): When we’re baptized, the Trinity comes to dwell in our souls, and God remains within us always as long as we don’t commit mortal sin, and if we do commit mortal sin, we only have to be sorry and go to confession and promise to try not to do it again, and there’s God, living in us again. This is called the Divine Indwelling, and it’s a mystery we could spend our whole lives pondering!
When the Trinity dwells this way in the soul in sanctifying grace, it’s an entirely spiritual indwelling. The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, is there, but the Body, Blood, and Soul of Jesus is not in us. Don’t ask me to explain it all – like I said, it’s a mystery :), but I mention it now because it highlights the magnificence of God’s gift to us in Holy Communion when Jesus comes to us not only spiritually in His Divinity, but also physically with the entirety of His human nature.
Science tells us it takes about fifteen minutes for us to digest the consecrated host that we receive. Theologians and the Church have always taught, then, that when we receive Holy Communion, Jesus remains in us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, for about fifteen minutes, until the accidents of the bread (or wine) are gone.
So Jesus remains as long as the Sacred Species subsists, or in simpler language, as long as the consecrated host and precious blood remain. When the priest returns the unconsumed consecrated hosts to the tabernacle, Jesus remains in the tabernacle. Children might sometimes picture Jesus locked in the tabernacle, and they’re right, though He’s there under the accidents of bread, and actually that’s another miracle. The first miracle is transubstantiation when the bread and wine become Jesus, really and truly, substantially. The second miracle is that although this is now substantially Jesus, the accidents of bread and wine remain. This is why theology is so important! We need to know what God is doing, at least to the small extent that we can know! (And this is why catechism is so important, because even without theology, the catechism teaches us these basic and all important eternal truths.)
Well St. Therese knew all this, not because she was a Doctor of the Church, but because she was Catholic. And because she was madly in love with Jesus (as we pray all Catholics will be!), she wasn’t satisfied with Him remaining in her for just fifteen minutes after Communion. Not only that, but she wasn’t spoiled rotten the way we are – she didn’t have the privilege to receive Him every day (we can even receive Him twice a day!), even though she was a nun! In those days, not so long ago, people had to ask their spiritual director or priest for permission to receive Holy Communion, which usually happened only on big feasts and special occasions. Pope Leo XIII, who was pope in Therese’s lifetime, had given permission for nuns to receive Communion every day, but Therese’s mother superior was against it and didn’t allow it for the community. St. Therese said that when she got to heaven, the community would receive Communion daily and she would change Mother’s mind, and that’s exactly what happened. Two weeks after she died, the nuns in her Carmel were given a new chaplain who immediately gave them permission to receive Holy Communion every day, and instead of being upset, the Mother Superior was happy.
But this wasn’t the case in Therese’s years there when she longed to receive Jesus daily. Still, she knew intimately God’s infinite love for her, and she loved Him back tremendously. She abandoned herself to Him like a child asleep in her Father’s arms, she trusted Him to take care of her, and she trusted Him to keep His promises. Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, the Father will give us, so Therese asked for what she so much desired. As she said, “I cannot receive You in Holy Communion as often as I desire” – she couldn’t receive Him every day, and I bet even if she could have, fifteen minutes of that total union with Christ would not have been enough for her. So she reminds Him, “Are you not all-powerful?” And finally she asks Him, with the simplicity of a child, to grant her desire and request, because He promised to give us what we asked – and in this case, as we have seen, she asks specifically, “Remain in me as in a tabernacle, never let Yourself be separated from Your Little Victim.”
And what does her petition mean? How does He remain in the tabernacle? He remains in His Real Presence, in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. And that’s exactly how she wants Him to remain in her, not for fifteen minutes, but from one Communion to the next, however long a time passes in between!
When I realized what she was saying, I realized I needed to do some research. I thought that if what she asked is possible, there must be some evidence in the history of the Church for other saints having asked for or having experienced this – Jesus remaining in them in His Real Presence between Holy Communions. In the Church, you don’t really want to come up with something totally new. If I had a book on “How Aliens are actually at every Mass and often receiving Holy Communion!” I don’t think I would have been asked to come talk about it to you!
So I wanted to find confirmation in the lives of the saints of what St. Therese was asking for…..and in very surprising and sudden ways, I found them: St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Faustina, and St. Padre Pio, to name three. Just to take one as an example, St. Faustina says very clearly in her diary: “Today I have come to know that Holy Communion remains in me until the next Holy Communion. A vivid and clearly felt presence of God continues in my soul. My heart is a living tabernacle in which the living Host is reserved.” [1302/September 29, 1937]
But there’s a difference between these saints’ experience of this miracle and Therese’s experience: As far as I can tell, Jesus revealed this gift to them after He gave it, but none of them had the outrageous childlike boldness to ask for it!
And then, there’s another difference between St. Therese and the other saints who experienced this Eucharistic miracle: namely, none of them were wild enough to suggest that we, too, should ask for it!
This is why I love St. Therese – she’s a woman in love, or better yet a woman in love with a Man (in this case also God) whom she knows is madly in love with her, and consequently, she’s entirely daring, confident, and absolutely over the top in her requests to Him, and He answers them all, because unlike an earthly spouse He’s not only all-rich, but all loving and all knowing and all merciful and all giving and all good! Which is why it’s a great thing to realize that Jesus is the spouse of our soul, even if we’re not called to the religious life or consecrated virginity. Even for those of us with a vocation to sacramental marriage, Jesus is the true spouse of our souls, as well as His being the spouse of our husbands’ souls, and He is crazy (St. Catherine of Siena says Drunk!) with love for us, and He’s all good and all powerful, so we have nothing to fear, and everything to request and rejoice in!
So – why do I say that Therese is inviting us to ask for this Eucharistic miracle? Because she wants all little souls to make the Act of Oblation, and it includes this petition that Jesus remain in us as in a tabernacle. When her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes in the monastery (though not the same mother superior who forbade daily Communion) was asked during the interviews that are part of the process for canonization, whether Therese meant this request literally, this petition that Jesus remain in her as in a tabernacle, without hesitation Mother Agnes said Yes. And when Therese convinced Marie of the Trinity, a novice she directed, to make this Act, it became even more clear that Therese intended all the petitions in the Act, especially this one, to be confidently requested by those who offered themselves to Merciful Love.
Marie of the Trinity is a really important witness to this Something New because when Therese asked her to make the Act of Oblation – and to do it the very next day – at first Marie said yes eagerly, but upon reflection, she told Therese no, she needed more time to prepare because she wasn’t worthy. Therese then responded without hesitation, that THE ONLY condition for making the Act was to realize one was unworthy of it! So Marie was ready! The next day after Mass Therese stayed to pray with Marie and while Marie recited the whole Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, Therese offered her to God.
Here's where it gets even more interesting. Later Marie said at the Apostolic Process:
“I was so flooded with graces on that beautiful day, the most beautiful day of my life, that all day long I experienced in a very tangible way the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus in my heart. I confided this to Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, who was not at all surprised and answered me simply:
‘Is God not omnipotent? If we so desire, it would not be difficult for Him to make His sacramental presence in our souls remain from one Communion to the next. Through this extraordinary feeling that you experienced today, He wishes to give you the pledge that all the requests you have made of Him in the Act of Oblation will be lavishly granted. You will not always enjoy these feelings, but their effects will be no less real. One receives from God as much as one hopes for.’”
So, as my husband would say, let’s sum up. So far we’ve seen that St. Therese asked God to remain in her as in a tabernacle. She also encouraged others to ask for this when she encouraged all little souls to offer themselves to Merciful Love. Furthermore, we heard her explain to Marie of the Trinity that to be prepared to make this offering (and in it, to ask Jesus to remain in us in His Real Presence between Holy Communions), we simply need to admit our unworthiness. And finally, when Marie of the Trinity felt the Eucharistic Presence of Christ remaining in her (somewhat like St. Faustina did), Therese assured her this was God’s way of letting us know He’s happy to grant these requests. He’s all powerful, all good, and all loving, so it’s easy for Him to do, and He wants to do it! So let’s go, huh? Let’s all ask for this grace, right?
Except….you may be like various friends of mine (and me too), wondering if St. Therese isn’t the only crazy one. I mean great, St. Therese and her holy sisters made this request. They had insanely unheard of graces like the great saints. We don’t have a problem with that. But us? We’re supposed to jump to that height? Isn’t it like trying to imitate St. Simon Stylites and sit on top of a tall pillar for a couple of decades? Or try to bilocate like Padre Pio did?
The answer is no, St. Therese wanted to do only things that COULD be imitated, and this was one. Sister Marie of the Trinity explained, decades after she first made the Act, “For me, this grace, more extraordinary it is true than ecstasies, visions, or revelations, can be the lot of little souls, without taking them out of their little way of humility, since it – [that is, having Jesus remain in us as in a tabernacle] – is a grace granted to their humble confidence and which operates in bare faith, therefore safe from pride and vainglory.”
Which is great, but you may run up against the problem I have. In the book, I have a whole bunch of objections I answer, but I’ll just mention this one tonight, and you can read about the answers to the others later. My problem is that I can’t even pay attention to Jesus for the fifteen minutes after I receive Him in Holy Communion, so how in the world would it make sense for me to invite Him to remain in me to be ignored the rest of the time? Or do I have to give up all my activities – granted, none of them as exalted as remaining with Jesus, but still, it’s kind of fun to watch a movie with friends, or have dinner, or go to the beach, or even study and be in class, but how can I do these things and ignore Jesus if I’ve asked Him to stay in me? Wouldn’t that be like asking a friend to have coffee with me and then playing with my phone the whole time? (Not that anyone of you would do that, but you get the idea!)
I really like this objection because, speaking of summing up, it pretty much sums up my whole life. I’m often so bad at concentrating or even just remembering! And yet, here’s the deal: we can’t let our littleness stop us from accepting God’s love. That pretty much sums up St. Therese’s whole life and message. God loves us infinitely, or to put it in a way we can understand, He’s madly in love with us! He's the best Father in the world, the best spouse in the world, the best brother in the world, and definitely the best friend in the world. He wants so much to be with us all the time as much as He can and love us completely. That’s why He invented the Eucharist! That’s why He insists we go to Mass every Sunday and receive Communion at least once a year – though He’s hoping we’ll get the hint and go way more often and receive Him way more often. And now He’s got this new plan to stay with us in His Real Presence all the time – and believe me, He knows much better than we do how lame we’re going to be about paying attention to Him! But He just wants to be with us, like St. Therese noticed about the parent watching a sleeping child, or to use another image, think of a mother with a nursing infant – he has very little idea what’s going on, but that doesn’t stop the mother from enjoying her baby getting nourishment from her.
I also like to remember that our guardian angels are with us all the time and they will adore Jesus remaining in us when we forget or are busy with other tasks. Like that nursing mother, He isn’t worried about us ignoring Him. The whole point of His being Really Present in the Blessed Sacrament is, as St. Therese said, to be with us. She wrote, “It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes to us each day from Heaven; it’s to find another Heaven, infinitely more dear to Him than the first: the Heaven of our soul, made to His image, the living temple of the adorable Trinity.”
You might still think this is way beyond you, loving God like St. Therese did, but she sees it differently. She wrote:
"How can you ask me if it’s possible for you to love God as I love Him? . . . Ah! I really feel that what pleases God in my little soul is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy . . . that is my only treasure. Why should this treasure not be yours? . . . Oh, I beg you, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love . . . Yes, I feel it, Jesus wills to give us the same graces, He wills to give us His Heaven gratuitously." (Letter 197)
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I hope that reading this post you've experienced a smidgen of the joy I had in offering it. Let's thank our Heavenly Father for the gift of Jesus, our true Love, and may He remain in us as in so many little (very little) tabernacles! My book, Something New with St. Therese, Her Eucharistic Miracle, goes into much greater detail in my effort to convince myself and you, dear reader, that Jesus wants to remain within us in His Real Presence. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit and I (and the guardian angels) will convince you, too - with or without the help of the book - to try this at home too!
Draw me, we will run!
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