All posts tagged: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

“Laudato Si’,” Personal Conversion, and Missionary Joy

Faced with an increasingly dechristianized West in his own time, the famous German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, frequently warned against a “missionary defeatism” in the Church.[1] Today, at least in the United States, political polarization has undermined any common arena of discourse that may have once existed. Loud rhetoric (not even eloquent sophistry!) has replaced reasoned argument. Washington remains gridlocked, if not perpetually, meaning that even common-sense, compromise legislation cannot be approved. Any new sense of global solidarity brought on by an age of social media is shadowed by a reminder of just how challenging a real, embodied solidarity actually is. At the same time, findings in the social sciences have bordered on determinism, showing more and more just how formative systems—like the one described—are for the human person, calling into question human responsibility and agency to actually transcend, let alone shape, these societies and cultures. The chorus of a 1971 hit by the English band Ten Years After captures the sentiment of many: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what …

Receiving Christ and Becoming Like Him

Benedict XVI concludes the first part of his apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (2010) by recommending the saints as expert witnesses to Scripture’s abiding truth: “The interpretation of Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening to those who truly lived the Word of God: namely, the saints” (§48). The saints unfold the contents of Scripture by dedicating their lives to performing its message. Their ability to bring the Word of God to life begins when they open the pages of Scripture in order to encounter Christ and to nurture their baptismal relationship with him. Once they learn of Christ’s undying love for them, expressed supremely in his suffering and death, they resolve never to be parted from him. For they are assured by the Holy Spirit that he wishes to remain with them always (Mt 28:20). They rejoice in the knowledge that there will never be a greater love than the Lord’s, this love that reconciles the world to God and that is given to them completely in the Eucharist. This joy of …

The Saint of Calcutta: Mother Teresa and the Pain of Joy

On September 4, 2016, the woman who claimed that if she ever became a saint she would “surely be one of ‘darkness’”[1] will enter the canon of the Church in broad daylight, for all the world to see. Till the end of the age, the universal name of charity that was “Mother Teresa” will become “Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” With the possible exception of St. John Paul II, no saint in the history of the Church has been known by so many people at the time of canonization, which makes the holiness of this saint both more available for observation and more difficult to discern. Knowing more about someone is not the same as knowing them well and in coming to know Mother Teresa as Saint Teresa, we are asked to deepen our knowledge of her according to her holiness, which her very public persona both hides and discloses. If she is a saint of darkness she is also a saint of joy. Yet, knowing her as the one in darkness and the one in …

Holiness and Prayer

God is holy by definition. When the prophet Isaiah describes the seraphs as singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the Jerusalem temple (Is 6:3), a praise of God taken over in the Christian liturgy, the triple affirmation precisely describes God. The word “holy” (Hebrew: kdsh) means something like “separate” or “different.” The word designates God’s separateness: God is not the cosmos, not a creature, not we humans infinitely magnified. God alone can say without qualification “I AM” (cf. Ex 3). Everything else called “holy”—whether it be places, times, instruments, clothing, images, persons, or whatever—is holy only in relation to God who alone is holy. Not to put too fine a point on it: to be holy is somehow connected to God who alone is, in fact, holy. One primary link to the holiness of God is by prayer. When we turn to God in prayer, either as a community or as an individual, we are doing something that is holy, which is to say, we are making some conscious connection to the source of holiness, God. …