Homily of Pope Pius XI at the Canonization of St. Thérèse on 17 May 1925.
Source: Taylor, Rev. Thomas N., Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, The Little Flower of Jesus. New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1930, 271-274.
Blessed be God and the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, and God of all consolation; who in the midst of the countless cares of our apostolic ministry, has granted Us the joy of inscribing as our first Saint in the calendar the Virgin who was also the first to be beatified by Us, at the beginning of our Pontificate. This maiden became a child in the order of grace, but her spirit of childhood was united to such greatness of soul that, in accordance with the promises of Christ, she merited to be glorified before the Church upon earth, as well as in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
We give thanks to God likewise for permitting Us, who hold the place of His Only Son, to repeat insistently today from this chair of Truth and during this solemn ceremony the salutary teaching of the Divine Master. When the disciples asked: "Who will be the greater in the Kingdom of Heave?" calling a child and setting him in their midst, He pronounced these memorable words: "Amen, I say to you, unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mat 18:2)
The new St. Thérèse had learned thoroughly this teaching of the Gospels and had translated it into her daily life. Moreover she taught the way of spiritual childhood by word and example to the novices of her monastery. She set it forth clearly in all her writings, which have gone to the ends of the world, and which assuredly no one has read without being charmed thereby, or without reading them again and again with great pleasure and much profit. For this simple child, this flower that blossomed in the walled garden of Carmel, not content with adding to Thérèse the name of the "Child Jesus," retraced in herself His living image, so that it may be said that whosoever honors Thérèse honors the Divine Model she reproduced.
Therefore We nurse the hope today of seeing springing up in the souls of the faithful of Christ a burning desire of leading a life of spiritual childhood. That spirit consists in thinking and acting, under the influence of virtue, as a child feels and acts in the natural order. Little children are not blinded by sin, or disturbed by the passions, and they enjoy in peace the possession of their innocence. Guiltless of malice or pretense, they speak and act as they think, so that they show themselves as they really are. Thus Thérèse appeared more angelic than human in her practice of truth and justice, endowed as she was with the simplicity of a child. The Maid of Lisieux had ever in memory the invitation and the promises of her Spouse: "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to Me." (Prov. 9:4) "You shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you; as one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you." (Is. 64:12-13)
Conscious of her weakness she abandoned herself entirely to God, and leaning upon Him she labored to acquire -- at the cost of every sacrifice, and of an utter yet joyous abdication of her own will -- the perfection she arrived at. We need not be surprised if in Thérèse was accomplished the word of Christ: "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mat 18:4) In her catechism lessons she drank in the pure doctrine of Faith, from the golden book of The Imitation of Christ she learned asceticism, in the writings of St. John of the Cross she found her mystical theology. Above all, she nourished heart and soul with the inspired Word of God on which she meditated assiduously, and the Spirit of Truth taught her what He hides as a rule from the wise and prudent and reveals to the humble. Indeed, God enriched her with a quite exceptional wisdom, so that she was enabled to trace out for others a sure way of salvation.
That superabundant share of divine light and grace enkindled in Thérèse so ardent a flame of love, that she lived by it alone, rising above all created things, till in the end it consumer her; so much so that shortly before her death she could candidly avow she had never given God anything but Love.
Evidently it was under the influence of that burning charity that the Maid of Lisieux took the resolution of doing all things for love of Jesus, with the sole object of pleasing Him, of consoling His Divine Heart, and of saving a multitude of souls who would love Him eternally. We have proof that on entering into Paradise she began at once, there also, this work among souls, when we see the mystical shower of roses which God permitted her, and still permits her to let fall upon earth, as she had ingenuously foretold.
Therefore do We desire earnestly that all the Faithful of Christ should render themselves worthy of partaking in the abundant profusion of graces resulting from the intercession of "little Thérèse." But We desire much more earnestly that all the faithful should study her in order to copy her, becoming children themselves, since otherwise they cannot, according to the oracle of the Master, arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven.
If the way of spiritual childhood became general, who does not see how easily would be realized the reformation of human society which We set ourselves to accomplish at the commencement of our Pontificate, and more especially in the promulgation of this Jubilee.1 We, therefore, adopt as our own the prayer of the new St. Thérèse with which she ends her invaluable autobiography: "O Jesus, we beseech Thee to cast Thy glance upon the vast number of little souls, and to choose in this world a legion of little victims worthy of Thy love." Amen.
1. 1925 had been declared a Jubilee Year by His Holiness Pope Pius XI.
Bull of Canonization of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. (Vehementer exultamus hodie)
Source: Taylor, Rev. Thomas N., Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, The Little Flower of Jesus. New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1930, 279 - 289.
Vehemently do We exult this day, and We are filled with the greatest joy, because it is granted to Us who beatified the daughter of Carmel -- Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and proposed her as a model, to celebrate now her canonization, under the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and under our own authority.
This Virgin, truly wise and prudent, walked in the way of the Lord in the simplicity of her soul, and being made perfect in a short space, fulfilled a long time. Thereafter while still in the flower of her years, she was called to Paradise to receive the crown which her heavenly Spouse had prepared for her. During her lifetime she was known only to a few, but immediately after her saintly death her fame spread abroad in marvellous fashion throughout the whole Christian world, on account of the innumerable wonders wrought by Almighty God at her intercession. Indeed, it seemed as if, in accordance with her dying promise, she were letting fall upon earth a shower of Roses. Hence it came to pass that Holy Church decided to bestow upon her the high honors reserved for the Saints without observing the statutory delays.
The child was born at Alençon in the diocese of Séez, in France, on January 2, 1873, of a father and amother remarkable for their piety -- Louis Stanislaus Martin and Marie Zélie Guérin. [ They were declared Venerable on 26 March 1994.] On January 4 she was baptized, receiving the name of Marie Françoise Thérèse.
Scarcely had she passed the age of four years and a half when she was bereft of her mother, and so became a prey to the deepest sorrow. Her education was thenceforth entrusted to her sisters, Marie and Pauline, whom she strove to obey perfectly in all things, the while she lived under the watchful care of her well-beloved father. Thanks to her teachers, Thérèse hastened like a giant along the way to perfection. From her earliest years it was her chief delight to talk frequently of God, and she always kept before her mind the thought that she must not inflict the slightest pain on the Holy Child Jesus.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit she longed to lead a most holy life and promised earnestly that she would refuse God nothing He should seem to ask of her, a resolution she endeavored to keep until death. As soon as she had reached the age of nine she was given into the charge of the Benedictine nuns of Lisieux, with whom she spent the day, returning home at nightfall. Though younger than the other scholars, she outstripped them all in progress and piety, studying the mysteries of our Faith with such zeal and insight that the chaplain of the convent styled her his "theologian," or the "little doctor." As time passed she learned by heart the whole of that admirable book, The Imitation of Christ, while the Sacred Scriptures became so familiar to her, that in her writings she used them aptly, frequently, and with authority.
In her tenth year, she was long afflicted by a mysterious and deadly disease from which, as she herself narrates, she was freed through Our Blessed Lady, to whom she had been making a novena under the invocation of Our Lady of Victories, and who appeared to her with a smile upon her lips. Thereafter, filled with angelic fervor, she made her soul ready for the sacred Banquet in which we partake of the Body of Christ.
As soon as she had tasted of the Eucharistic Bread, she felt an insatiable hunger for that heavenly Food, and, as if inspired, she begged of Jesus, her sole delight, to "change for her into bitterness all human consolation." Then, all aflame with love for Christ and His Church, she had a most keen desire to enter among the Discalced Carmelites, so that by her self-denial and continual sacrifices "she might bring help to priests and missionaries and the entire Church," and might gain innumerable souls for Jesus Christ. At the approach of death she promised that when with God she would continue this work.
While yet but fourteen years old, on account of her tender age, she met with serious opposition on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities regarding her vocation to the cloister. These difficulties she surmounted with a strength of soul well-nigh incredible, and in spite of her natural shyness, she revealed her intention to our predecessor, Leo XIII of happy memory. The Pontiff remitted the matter to the decision of the Superiors. though balked of her desire, and stricken with grief, nevertheless she was perfectly submissive to the divine will.
After this stern trial of her patience and her vocation, on the night day of April 1888, with the approval of her Bishop, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of Lisieux. In Carmel God wonderfully trained the heart of Thérèse, who, imitating the hidden life of Our Lady at Nazareth, like a well-watered garden put forth the flowers of every virtue, but most of all those of a burning love for God and most ardent charity of her neighbor, inasmuch as she had thoroughly understood that commandment of the Lord: "Love one another as I have loved you."
In order more and more to give pleasure to Jesus Christ, having dwelt upon the invitation given in Scripture: "If anyone is little, let him come unto Me," she desired to be a little one in spirit, and thenceforth with a childlike and perfect trust she surrendered herself entirely and for ever to God, as to a most loving Father. This way of spiritual childhood, in keeping with the doctrine of the Gospel, she taught to others, especially to the novices, whom out of obedience she had undertaken to train in the exercise of the virtues of the religious life, and then filled with a holy and apostolic zeal [by her writings] she enthusiastically opened up the way of evangelical simplicity to a world puffed up with pride, "loving vanity and searching after falsehood."
Jesus, her Spouse, set her completely on fire with a longing to suffer both in body and in soul. Realizing with the utmost sorrow how Divine Love was on all sides forgotten, two years before her death she offered herself wholeheartedly as a victim to "God's Merciful Love." Then, as it is reported, she was wounded by a flaming dart, so that, consumed by the divine fire, rapt in ecstasy, with the cry of "My God, I love Thee!" upon her lips, she went to her reward at the age of twenty-four. It was on September 30, 1897, that she took flight to her Spouse, and thus, according to the well-known eulogy of Holy Scripture: "having been made perfect in a short space, she fulfilled a long time."
The funeral rites were duly carried out, and she was buried in the cemetery of Lisieux. From there her fame spread throughout the world and her sepulcher became glorious. Scarcely had she entered Paradise than she began to fulfill by innumerable miracles -- as she still continues to fulfill -- her promise of sending down to earth a perpetual shower of Roses, that is, of graces. The high esteem which she enjoyed among those who knew her in life was wonderfully increased after her death.
Urged by her great reputation for holiness, many Cardinals, Bishops, and Religious Superiors sent petitions to Pope [St.] Pius X, begging that her cause of canonization would be introduced. the Holy Father hearkened to the many prayers, and on the ninth of June, 1914, signed the decree of the Commission of the Introduction of the Cause, which was entrusted to the Postulator-General of the Discalced Carmelites, Reverend Father Rodrigo of St. Francis of Paula.
The Process having been carried through its various stages, and the heroic nature of the virtues practiced by Thérèse having been duly inquired into, the General Congregation was held on August 2, 1921, in presence of Pope Benedict XV. His Eminence, Cardinal Vico, Ponent of the Cause, submitted for discussion the question of the heroism of the Servant of God in practicing the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, as also the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, and Temperance. The Cardinals and Consulters present gave their vote, and after delaying in order to obtain further light from God, Our Predecessor promulgated his decision on the eve of the Assumption, to the effect that the Venerable Thérèse had practiced the above virtues to an heroic degree.
So rapid and triumphant was the progress of the Cause that at once two miracles were proposed for examination, chosen out of a multitude of prodigies said to have been wrought throughout the Christian world by the powerful intercession of the Venerable Thérèse. The first concerned Sister Louise of St. Germain, of the Daughters of the Cross, victim of an organic disease, namely, a grave ulcer in the stomach, of hemorragic nature. On having recourse to the intercession of Thérèse, she was restored to perfect health, as three eminent doctors have unanimously testified at the request of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. The second miracle, somewhat similar to the first, was the cure of the young seminarist, Charles Anne, victim of pulmonary haemoptysis, of the cavitary stage. He confidently invoked the aid of the Servant of God and was perfectly cured. This is clear from the testimony of the three doctors, and from the reasons on which they based their decisions.
After the Antepreparatory and Preparatory Congregation, the General Congregation, on January 30, 1923, discussed in our presence the miraculous nature of three cures. According to custom, We reserved our decision in order to obtain further assistance from God, and on Quinquagesima Sunday, February 11, 1923, Feast of the Apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes, and eve of the first anniversary of our coronation, We decided to make it known. In the presence of Cardinal Vico, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, and others of its members, We solemnly declared the above instantaneous and complete cures to be beyond doubt miraculous, and We gave orders for the promulgation of a Decree to that effect.
Shortly after, on March 6, Cardinal Vico, at another general reunion of the Congregation of Rites, put the question: "The virtues of the Venerable Servant of God and the two miracles required having been formally recognized, can the Beatification safely be proceeded with?" The decision was unanimously in the affirmative. After a brief delay, on the Feast of St. Joseph, We solemnly declared that in all safety Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus could receive the honors of Beatification, and We ordained the publication of the Brief for the ceremony in the Vatican Basilica. In the same Patriarchal Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles amid an outpouring of universal joy, the Servant of God became Blessed Thérèse.
Hearing of the fresh prodigies accomplished by Thérèse of the Child Jesus, We commissioned the Sacred Congregation of Rites on July 27, 1923, to take up anew the Cause of the Beata. On July 11, 1924, We ratified a decree of the Sacred Congregation which declared that the examinations in the dioceses of Parma [Italy] and Malines [Belgium], concerning miracles attributed to Blessed Thérèse were valid processes.
Gabriella Trimusi, who at the age of twenty-three had entered the Convent of the Poor Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Parma, began in 1913 to suffer in her left knee. She was in the habit of breaking the firewood across her knee, and this caused a lesion at the joint which prepared the way for a tuberculous infection. The trouble began with a dull pain, then the knee became swollen, and finally loss of appetite brought about emaciation. She was attended by two physicians, but without success, so that three years later she was sent to Milan, where injections, sunbaths, and various other forms of treatment were tried in vain; at the end of four years the spine itself became affected. The invalid returned to Parma, where several doctors diagnosed it as a case of tuberculous lesion, and prescribed general remedies. A radiograph of the knee revealed at this period the existence of periostitis at the head of the tibia. Taken to the hospital, she was once more subjected to X-rays, but while there was attacked by Spanish influenza, and began to suffer fresh and constantly increasing pain in the vertebral column. All remedies proving ineffective, she was recommended by a priest on June 13, 1923, to join in a public novena in honor of Blessed Thérèse. She joined in the prayers, more concerned, however, over the health of the other nuns than her own. The close of the novena coincided with the close of a triduum in a neighboring Carmel, and several of the nuns -- Gabriella among the rest -- sought permission to attend the ceremony. On her return, after slowly and painfully effecting the short journey, she entered the chapel of the Community, where the others were already assembled. The Superioress exhorted her to pray with confidence, and bade her go to her place. Strange to say, the invalid knelt down unconsciously on her knee without feeling the slightest pain, nor did she realize what she had done, on account of the increase of suffering at the moment in the spine. She next went to the refectory with others, and, the meal finished, slowly mounted the stairs. Going into the first room she saw, she took off the apparatus she wore to support the spine, and cried out loudly: "I am cured, I am cured!"
Sister Gabriella Trimusi returned at once to her labors and the exercises of religious life, without either pain or fatigue. The doctors appointed by the Sacred Congregation discussed the miracle at great length, and decided that the lesion at the knee was chronic arthrosynovitis and the spinal trouble was chronic spondulitis. These two lesions, rebellious to all other treatment, yielded to God's power, and Sister Gabriella by a miracle recovered the health which she still enjoys.
The story of the second miracle is more brief. In October 1919, Maria Pellemans was a victim of pulmonary tuberculosis, and this was followed by gastritis and enteritis, both of them likewise of a tuberculous nature. She was medically attended at home, then in a sanatorium. In August 1920, she went to Lourdes, but all to no purpose. In March, 1923, she accompanied a small band of pilgrims to Lisieux, and while kneeling at the tomb of the Blessed Thérèse she was suddenly restored to perfect health. Three specially appointed doctors made a favorable report to the Sacred Congregation on both miracles.
In these cures, the reality of the miraculous nature admitted of no doubt whatsoever, indeed it shone with unwonted splendor on account of the special circumstances in which the prodigies occurred. For that reason, on March 17, 1925, in a General Congregation, Cardinal Vico sought the verdict of the Cardinals and Consulters, based on the unanimous decision of the medial experts. We ourselves reserved our opinion until March 19, Feast of St. Joseph, when in the presence of the Cardinal Prefect and other dignitaries of the Sacred Congregation of Rite We solemnly proclaimed the two cures to be of a certainty miraculous. On March 29, after having received the unanimous vote of the Cardinals and the Consulters, We solemnly declared the Canonization of the Blessed Thérèse could be proceeded with in safety.
After all these preliminaries, in order to comply with the prescriptions laid down by our Predecessors, and to enhance the splendor of the august ceremony, We convoked a Secret Consistory of the Cardinals on March 30, to ask their advice on the question of the solemn canonization. Cardinal Vico spoke eloquently on the life and miracles of Blessed Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and warmly begged that she be raised to the highest honors. Each of the Cardinals expressed his opinion on the matter in question. On April 2 We held a Public Consistory, at which after an able discourse by the Consistorial advocate, John Gusco, all the Cardinals exhorted Us to give a final decision. We, however, invited by special letters not merely the neighboring Bishops, but also those most remote to come to Us and pronounce their opinion. Many came from various countries, and on April 22 took part in a semi-public Consistory, after having acquainted themselves -- by means of an abridgment -- with the life and miracles of the Beta, and all the process gone through by the Congregation of Rites. Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops united themselves to the Cardinals, urging upon Us to celebrate this canonization.
We therefore decided to celebrate it on May 17, in the Vatican Basilica, and exhorted the faithful to redouble their prayers, both for their own spiritual benefit and for our guidance by the Spirit of God.
On this most happy and desired day, the secular and regular clergy of Rome, the Prelates and Officials of the Curia, and finally all the Patriarchs, Bishops and Abbots then in the Eternal City gathered in the Vatican Basilica, the same being magnificently decorated. We ourselves brought up the rear of the procession. Then our Venerable Brother, Anthony Cardinal Vico, after a speech by Virgil Jacoucci, Consistorial advocate, set forth to Us the desire of the Episcopate, and the Order of Discalced Carmelites, that We should place among the Saints Blessed Thérèse of the Child Jesus, whom already We had proclaimed the patroness of the Missions and Noviciates of the Order. A second and third time they renewed their petition. Then after earnest prayers for light: "In honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the glory of the Catholic Faith, by the authority of Jesus Christ, of Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, after mature deliberation and at the request of the Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops, We declared that the professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was a Saint and was to be inscribed in the calendar of the Saints, memory of her to be kept on October the third of each year. [With the change of the liturgical calendar, St. Thérèse's feast day was moved to October 1st .] Finally, We returned fervent thanks to God for so great a favor, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, granted a Plenary Indulgence, and ordained the publication of the Decree, to be signed by all the Cardinals and by ourselves.
Today, faithful flock of Christ, the Church offers a new and most noble model of virtue for all of you to contemplate unceasingly. For the peculiar characteristic of the sanctity to which God called Thérèse of the Child Jesus lies chiefly in this, that having heard the Divine call she obeyed with the utmost promptness and fidelity. Without going beyond the common order of things, in her way of life she followed out and fulfilled her vocation with such alacrity, generosity, and constancy that she reached an heroic degree of virtue. In our own day, when men seek so passionately after temporal goods, this young maiden lived in our midst practicing in all simplicity and devotedness the Christian virtues in order to honor God and to win eternal life. May her example strengthen in virtue and lead to amore perfect life, not only the cloistered souls but those living in the world.
In our present needs let us all invoke the patronage of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, that by her intercession a shower of Roses, that is, of the graces we require, may descend upon us. All of which We solemnly affirm out of the fullness of the Apostolic authority, and if anyone contravene our Decree -- he shall incur the wrath of God and of St. Peter and St. Paul. Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, May 17, 1925, in the fourth year of our Pontificate, I, Pius, Bishop of the Catholic Church, et cetera.