St Therese Novena 2011 – Day 4 homily

St Thérèse – My Vocation is Love

sr-eileen-cummins-ola-2Sr Eileen Cummins OLA, from Galway, was a missionary in Nigeria for many years. Later she was part of the pastoral team in the ‘Afrika Parish’ in Amsterdam. She has served on the OLA Provincial Council in Cork and later on the General Council in Rome. In Rome she served as Councillor and later as Superior General. Sr Eileen is now based in the OLA Convent, Ardfoyle, Cork.

Sr Eileen preached on the fourth day of the 2011 Novena on the above theme.

We have heard a lot about St Thérèse these past few nights, her prayer life, her family life her work life and tonight we shall reflect on her ‘Love Life’ Her Vocation to Love, as she used to call it, and love was central to the life of Thérèse from a very young age:

However, we know that this same call to love it is also Our Vocation; we are also called to love. The parting words of Jesus to his Disciples and to all of us shortly before he died were, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you Love one another as I have loved you’, (John 13, 34) Thérese made love the centre piece of her daily life so to speak, and we are also called and challenged to live this ‘new commandment to Love’ in our family homes, places of work, our neighborhood and beyond.

The life story of St. Thérèse is a story of  Love, which was the basis/bedrock of her complete and utter confidence in God; Thérèse had such a childlike and real trust in God that whatever happened to her in life be it joyful or sad she saw it as coming from the merciful hands of God:  God was so present to her that she spoke to him in the easy language of a child to a father or mother: that was how she prayed: straight from the heart, a relaxed and simple conversation which nurtured her relationship of love with God.

Thérèse used to say ‘the Science of love is the only science I desire’ and again she says ‘Love alone counts’ and we know that deep within our being our greatest desire is to Love and be Loved, and why? simply because love gives life, gives a reason for living and a sense of hope, it draws the very best out of us, enables us to grow and to become the person that God intends us to become, it awakens us to the magic of life, makes it possible for to reach out in confidence to others, to God and to be our true self.

There is a wise saying from the East: ‘You don’t love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you Love her’

Thérèse experienced love in her family home; we are told that what the children remembered most of all from home was the love of the parents for them:

the love that formed and shaped their lives into wholesome people.

We recall the outbreak of violence and looting in many cities throughout England recently, one young black boy was asked by a BBC reporter why he did not get caught up in the violence, in the looting that took place, and his reply was, I am one of the lucky ones, I have a father and a mother who would do anything for me

The difference that Love in the family home and that sense of belonging made to the life of that young lad, taught him to love, taught him happiness / contentment and respect others and their property, now we all long to belong, to be included and that can only come as Thérèse tells us from a felt experience of Love in our life:

Thérèse’s Vocation to Love was put to the test at an early age in life. She was just 4 years old when her mother died; her sister Pauline whom she had come to regard as her mother entered the convent. Thérèse missed her a lot from the home: like the death of a mother second time round, and that begs the question what does love mean when there is suffering in life?  Love and Suffering go hand in hand; they are united in Jesus on the Cross: where we have intense suffering and the unconditional love of God personified in Jesus on the hill of Calvary. And this Thérèse understood very well; she could see beneath the harsh reality of suffering the loving hand of God. God can only do us good, but with our finite eyes we don’t see the whole picture all at once. Life in the convent at Lisieux was not always easy for Thérèse. Some of the nuns were difficult, in fact, they were sometimes nasty to her. However, Thérèse discovered her own Little Way to accept that each one of the Sisters in the community is loved for ever by God, and she knew ‘that there can be no love of God without love of the neighbor’ so she loved them as best she could through the kind word, the smile, and whatever service she could give in the normal household duties, she did it for them out of love.  

She used to say, ‘It is the little things done out of love that charm the heart of Christ’ and again she said ‘only love lets us see normal things in an extraordinary way’ and therein lies is a consoling and meaningful message for most of us who live our lives in the ordinary humdrum duties and uneventful tasks of everyday life, seen through the eyes of love we transform them into something very precious – God’s hand in and through them all, slowly but surely weaving His Will into the story of our lives

And finally, Thérèse packed so much into a very short life: dying at the age of 24; doubtful if she had any formal education yet she is proclaimed Doctor of the Church; her thesis was not long one, from books or the head, but from the heart, what she lived, a life of Love, echoing the words of St. Paul in 1 Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have no love I am only making noise.’

She is the patroness of missionaries; she longed to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, yet she lived a hidden, unknown life in Carmel, but her Love was so great, so real, that it transcended the strong walls of Carmel and reached out in prayer and in love to the missionaries as they ministered to the marginalized, supporting them from a distance with the simplicity and power of her prayer and love: Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in one of his many letters: ‘Unless the missionary is a person of prayer and contemplation, they are not missionaries at all’ and therein lies a challenge for many of us too!

What message do we take home with us this evening: Childlike trust in God, seeing his hand at work in the ordinary everyday events in our lives, living the Gospel message of Love in our homes, with our families, neighbors and parish: or maybe only one phrase borrowed from Thérèse and that is ‘Love alone counts! Amen.