Homily preached by Rt Rev Bishop Timothy Carroll SMA, emeritus Vicar Apostolic of Kontagora, Nigeria for the 3rd night of the SMA National Novena in honour of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions.
25 September 2011 – St Joseph’s SMA Church, Blackrock Road, Cork.
St Thérèse entered the convent at the age of 15 years. She soon discovered that life in the Convent was not always easy. The Sisters rose at dawn and spent long silent hours in prayer. She had not been used to hard physical work.
Now she had to learn quickly how to wash floors, do the laundry, and do her own mending and sewing.
She searched the Scriptures for a means of going to heaven. She said she wanted a Little Way, a straight way, a short cut. She found it, not in Jerusalem, or on the road to Emmaus, but in the house of the Holy Family at Nazareth. It is in Nazareth we start this journey tonight.
The public life of Christ was only three short years.
He spent thirty long years at Nazareth doing the things families do every day. Mary rose early, lit the fire, boiled the kettle for the breakfast. Jesus and Joseph came down and ate their breakfast, then started another day in the carpenters shed. Yokes for oxen had to be cut, timber sawed and planed. Mary took her bucket and went to the village well. She swept the floor, cut the vegetables and started the dinner. She called Joseph and her son when the dinner was ready. Jesus brought the leftover bits of wood in his arms and put them down near the fire for his mother. They all put their legs under the table and ate their dinner.
Does this sound very familiar?
St Thérèse had found her new way, her short cut to heaven.
It was the way of Jesus, the way of Mary and the way of Joseph.
Praying to Mary, Thérèse wrote, “I know that at Nazareth, O Virgin full of grace, you lived poorly, desiring nothing, no raptures, no miracles, no ecstasies, nothing but the silent, loving accomplishments of daily duties”.
Thérèse realised that like the Holy Family, she too must do the ordinary things of every day and offer them to God with love. The washing of ware, scrubbing of floors, sweeping of corridors, doing the laundry, mending and sewing, took on a new meaning.
My favourite picture of St Thérèse is where she wears an apron, her sleeves pulled up. She leans over the sink, with a saucepan in one hand, and a dish cloth in the other. It could be a picture of our mother or our sister, or any woman.
Like the family at Nazareth and like St Thérèse, we too must find God in the small ordinary tasks of every day. We say we will do big things for God, we wait and we wait, but the big things seldom come and time passes us by.
The road from Cork to Dublin is tarred with small stones, small chips. One little stone or chip is insignificant, but enough of them will make roads across continents.
My niece dyes her hair, a common practice nowadays.
We too must let the dye of God colour our day, let it run and colour the ordinary small tasks of every day.
Ordinary things then become sacred things, holy things that made a saint out of St Thérèse. This too can be our shortcut to heaven.
We come to this Church to pray. We do not live here, we do not eat here, we do not sleep here.
We must bring God into our homes, into our work places, into the places where we live out our lives.
We must talk to God in these places. We must find him, like Mary, Joseph and St Thérèse, among the pots and pans of every day, in the cooking, in the washing up, in the office, and out in the fields.
In conclusion, we can say of St Thérèse, that her way to heaven was through the kitchen.
Our journey back to God has already begun in our kitchens, in our homes, and through our own front doors.
May God, through the intercession of St Thérèse, grant us all a safe journey. Amen.