Sunday 4 October 2009

Bishop Roche's homily

I have had the experience during the last few months of re-acquainting myself with the writings of St Therese of Lisieux - and of others writing about her. One aspect of this experience has been seeing just how much she is able to fascinate - and to catch the imagination of the most varied people. The enthusiasm for the visit of her relics also bears witness to this. The other aspect that has struck me is that, though in some ways simplicity is a leitmotif of St Therese, the gaining of a full and proper understanding of her teaching is far from simple. She is like a diamond, with lots of different facets which all need to be put together to get the full picture.

Bishop Roche's homily appears to me to capture this complexity very well.

She was only a nun for nine of her twenty four years yet, today, she stands alongside some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of her age, as one who wrestled with the deepest problems of human existence, the enigma of human suffering and the mystery of despair. And now she stands among the Doctors of the Church – those theological giants, and mystics, to whom has been revealed insights into the divine life that are important for Christian living.

And these words surely indicate a relevance of her teaching and life to our contemporary situation:

He led her into the deeper trials of the spirit where the soul was purified because against all the odds, in the darkness and the sense of abandonment, and the questions that arose as to whether God was there, she remained faithful because she knew this was the ultimate test of love. She described this experience as a night of nonexistence where she mingled with the spirits of atheism and unbelief.

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