Apostolic Exhortation “It is Confidence” from Pope Francis on trust in the merciful love of God on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

1. “It is trust and nothing but trust that must lead us to Love.”[1]

2. These very strong words from Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face say it all. They sum up the genius of her spirituality and would be enough to justify her being declared a Doctor of the Church. Only trust, and “nothing else”, there is no other path to lead us to the Love that gives everything. Through trust, the source of grace overflows in our lives, the Gospel becomes flesh in us and transforms us into channels of mercy for our brothers.

3. It is the confidence which sustains us every day and which will make us stand before the gaze of the Lord when he calls us to Him: “In the evening of this life, I will appear before you empty-handed, for I will not ask not, Lord, to count my works. All our justices have spots in your eyes. I therefore want to clothe myself in your own Justice and receive from your Love the eternal possession of Yourself.”[2]

4. Thérèse is one of the best known and most loved saints in the entire world. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, she is loved even by non-Christians and non-believers. She has also been recognized by UNESCO as one of the most significant figures of contemporary humanity.[3] It will be good for us to deepen his message on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth, in Alençon on January 2, 1873, and the centenary of his beatification.[4] But I did not want to make this exhortation public on one of these dates, nor on the day of his memory, so that this message goes beyond this celebration and is understood as part of the spiritual treasure of the Church . The date of this publication, memory of Saint Teresa of Avila, aims to present Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as a ripe fruit of the reform of Carmel and the spirituality of the great Spanish Saint.

5. His earthly life was brief, twenty-four years, simple like any other, first in his family, then in the Carmel of Lisieux. The extraordinary light and love that radiated from her person were manifested immediately after her death through the publication of her writings and through the countless graces obtained by the faithful who invoked her.

6. The Church quickly recognized the extraordinary value of his testimony and the originality of his evangelical spirituality. Thérèse met Leo XIII during a pilgrimage to Rome in 1887 and asked his permission to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen. Shortly after her death, Saint Pius X realized her immense spiritual stature, to the point of affirming that she would become the greatest saint of modern times. Declared venerable in 1921 by Benedict Pius The same Pope declared her Patroness of the Missions in 5.[17] She was proclaimed one of the Patroness Saints of France in 1925 by Venerable Pius XII[6] who repeatedly explored the theme of spiritual childhood in greater detail.[1927] Saint Paul VI liked to recall his baptism received on September 7, 1944, the day of the death of Saint Thérèse, and, on the occasion of the centenary of her birth, he wrote to the Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux on his doctrine.[8] During his first apostolic trip to France, Saint John Paul II went to the basilica dedicated to him on June 9, 30 and, in 1897, he declared her a Doctor of the Church[10] as an “expert in scientia amoris”.[2] Benedict XVI took up the theme of his “science of love” by proposing it as “a guide for all, in particular for those who, within the people of God, exercise the ministry of theologians”.[1980] Finally, I had the joy of canonizing his parents, Louis and Zélie, in 1997 during the Synod on the Family and I recently dedicated to him a catechesis of the cycle on the theme of apostolic zeal.[11]

1. Jesus for others

7. In the name she chooses as a nun, Jesus appears: the “Child” who manifests the mystery of the Incarnation, and the “Holy Face”, that is to say the face of Christ who gives himself to the end on the Cross. She is “Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face”.

8. The Name of Jesus is continually “breathed” by Thérèse as an act of love, until her last breath. She had also engraved these words in her cell: “Jesus is my only love”. This was his interpretation of the central affirmation of the New Testament: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8.16).

A missionary soul

9. As happens in any authentic encounter with Christ, his experience of faith called him to mission. Thérèse was able to define her mission in these terms: “I will desire the same thing in Heaven as on earth: To love Jesus and to make him loved”.[15] She wrote that she entered Carmel “to save souls”.[16] In other words, she did not understand her consecration to God apart from the search for the good of her brothers. She shared the merciful love of the Father for the sinful child, and that of the Good Shepherd for the lost, distant, injured sheep. This is why she is the Patroness of missions, master of evangelization.

10. The last pages of The Story of a Soul [17] are a missionary testament. They express his way of conceiving evangelization by attraction,[18] and not by pressure or proselytism. It is interesting to read how she sums it up: ““Attract me, we will run to the smell of your perfumes”. O Jesus, it is therefore not even necessary to say: By attracting me, attract the souls that I love. This simple word: “Attract me” is enough. Lord, I understand, when a soul has allowed itself to be captivated by the intoxicating smell of your perfumes, it cannot run alone, all the souls it loves are drawn along in its wake; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of his attraction towards you. Just as a torrent, throwing itself impetuously into the ocean, carries with it everything it encounters in its path, so, O my Jesus, the soul which plunges into the shoreless ocean of your love, draws with it all the treasures it possesses… Lord, you know, I have no other treasures than the souls that you have been pleased to unite with mine.”[19]

11. She quotes here the words that the wife addresses to the husband in the Song of Songs (1, 3-4), according to the in-depth interpretation by the two doctors of Carmel, Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross. The Bridegroom is Jesus, the Son of God who united himself with our humanity in the incarnation and redeemed it on the Cross. From his open side, he gave birth to the Church, his beloved Spouse for whom he gave his life (cf. Eph 5:25). What is striking is that Thérèse, aware of being close to death, did not experience this mystery closed in on herself, in a feeling of only consolation, but with a fervent apostolic spirit.

The grace that frees us from self-referentiality

12. The same is true when she speaks of the action of the Holy Spirit, which immediately acquires a missionary sense: “Here is my prayer, I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of his love, to m 'unite Him so closely, that He lives and acts in me. I feel that the more the fire of love sets my heart on fire, the more I will say: Attract me, and also the souls who will approach me (poor little useless scrap of iron, if I moved away from the divine inferno), the more quickly these souls will run to the smell of the perfumes of their Beloved, because a soul ablaze with love cannot remain inactive.”[20]

13. In Thérèse's heart, the grace of baptism becomes this impetuous torrent which flows into the ocean of Christ's love, carrying with it a multitude of sisters and brothers. This is what happened in particular after his death: his promise of a “rain of roses”.[21]

2. The little way of trust and love

14. One of Thérèse's most important discoveries, for the good of all the people of God, is her “little way”, the way of trust and love, also known as the Way of spiritual childhood. Everyone can follow it, in any state of life, at every moment of existence. This is the way that the heavenly Father reveals to the little ones (cf. Mt 11:25).

15. Thérèse recounted her discovery of the little way in the Story of a Soul:[22] “I can therefore, despite my smallness, aspire to holiness; growing up is impossible, I must support myself as I am with all my imperfections; but I want to look for the way to go to Heaven by a very straight, very short little way, a very new little way.”[23]

16. To describe it, she uses the image of the elevator: “The elevator that must lift me to Heaven is your arms, O Jesus! For this I do not need to grow, on the contrary I must remain small, that I become more and more so”.[24] Small, unable to trust in herself, but trusting in the loving power of the Lord's arms.

17. It is “the sweet way of love”,[25] opened by Jesus to the little ones and the poor, to everyone. This is the path to true joy. Faced with a Pelagian conception of holiness,[26] individualist and elitist, more ascetic than mystical, which places the emphasis above all on human effort, Thérèse always emphasizes the primacy of God's action, of his grace. She goes so far as to say: “I always feel the same audacious confidence of becoming a great Saint, because I do not count on my merits having none, but I hope in Him who is Virtue, Holiness Itself , it is He alone who, content with my feeble efforts, will raise me to Himself and, covering me with His infinite merits, will make me Holy.”[27]

Beyond all merit

18. This way of thinking does not contradict traditional Catholic teaching on the growth of grace. Justified freely by sanctifying grace, we are transformed and able to cooperate through our good actions in a path of growth in holiness. In this way we are raised in such a way that we can have true merits for the development of the grace received.

19. But Thérèse prefers to emphasize the primacy of divine action and invite full confidence in looking at the love of Christ which is given to us to the end. It basically teaches that, since we cannot have any certainty by looking at ourselves,[28] we cannot be certain of possessing merits either. So it is not possible to rely on our efforts or what we do. The Catechism wanted to quote the words of Saint Teresa when she said to the Lord “I will appear before you empty-handed”,[29] to express that “the saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace”.[ 30] This conviction arouses joyful and tender gratitude.

20. The most appropriate attitude is therefore to place the trust of the heart outside of oneself, in the infinite mercy of a God who loves without limits and who gave everything on the Cross of Jesus Christ.[31] This is why she never uses the expression, common in her time, “I will make myself a saint”.

21. On the other hand, his unlimited confidence encourages those who feel fragile, limited, sinners to let themselves be led and transformed to reach the summit: “Ah! If all weak and imperfect souls felt what the smallest of all souls feels, the soul of your little Thérèse, not a single one would despair of arriving at the summit of the mountain of love, since Jesus does not ask great deeds, but only abandonment and recognition”.[32]

22. This same insistence of Thérèse on the divine initiative means that, when she speaks of the Eucharist, she does not put first her desire to receive Jesus in holy communion, but the desire of Jesus to unite himself to us and remain in our hearts.[33] In the Act of Offering to Merciful Love, suffering from not being able to receive communion every day, she said to Jesus: “Remain with me, as in the tabernacle”.[34] The center and object of her gaze is not herself with her needs, but Christ who loves, who seeks, who desires, who dwells in the soul.

Daily abandonment

23. The trust that Thérèse promotes should not be understood only in relation to personal sanctification and salvation. It has an integral meaning which embraces the totality of concrete existence and applies to all of our lives where we are often invaded by fears, by the desire for human security, by the need to control everything. This is where the invitation to holy “abandonment” appears.

24. Full trust, which becomes abandonment in Love, frees us from obsessive calculations, from constant worry about the future, from fears that take away peace. In her last days, Thérèse insisted on this point: “We who run in the path of Love, I find that we must not think of what could happen to us that is painful in the future, because then it is to miss of trust”.[35] If we are in the hands of a Father who loves us without limits, this will be true in all circumstances, we will get through it no matter what and, one way or another, his plan of love and of fullness will be realized in our life.

A fire in the middle of the night

25. Thérèse lived the strongest and most certain faith in the darkness of the night and even in the darkness of Calvary. Her testimony reached its peak in the last period of her life, in her great "trial against the faith",[36] which began at Easter 1896. In her account,[37] she puts this trial in direct relation to the painful reality of atheism of his time. She lived in fact at the end of the 38th century, the “golden age” of modern atheism as a philosophical and ideological system. When she writes that Jesus had allowed my soul “to be invaded by the thickest darkness”,[39] she means the darkness of atheism and the rejection of the Christian faith. In union with Jesus, who took upon himself all the darkness of the sin of the world by agreeing to drink the cup of the Passion, Thérèse perceives, in this darkness, despair, the emptiness of nothingness.[XNUMX]

26. But darkness cannot extinguish the Light: it was defeated by Him who, as Light, came into the world (cf. Jn 12:46).[40] Thérèse's story shows the heroic character of her faith, her victory in spiritual combat in the face of the strongest temptations. She feels like the sister of atheists and sits down at table, like Jesus, with sinners (cf. Mt 9:10-13). She intercedes for them, while continually renewing her act of faith, always in loving communion with the Lord: “I run to my Jesus, I tell him that I am ready to shed every last drop of my blood to confess that he there is a Heaven. I tell Him that I am happy not to enjoy this beautiful Heaven on earth so that He may open it for eternity to the poor unbelievers.”[41]

27. In faith, she intensely lives an unlimited trust in the infinite mercy of God: “A trust which must lead us to love”.[42] She experiences, even in the darkness, the total confidence of the child who abandons himself without fear in the arms of his father and mother. For Thérèse, in fact, God shines above all through his mercy, the key to understanding everything that is said about Him: “To me He gave His infinite Mercy, and it is through it that I contemplate and adore the other perfections Divine!… Then all appear to me radiant with love, Justice itself (and perhaps even more than all the others) seems to me clothed in love.”[43] This is one of Thérèse's most important discoveries, one of her greatest contributions to all of God's people. She entered in an extraordinary way into the depths of divine mercy and drew there the light of her limitless hope.

A very firm hope

28. Before entering Carmel, Thérèse experienced a singular spiritual closeness with one of the most unfortunate men, the criminal Henri Pranzini, condemned to death for triple murder, and unrepentant.[44] Offering mass for him and praying with total confidence for his salvation, she is sure to put him in contact with the Blood of Jesus and she tells God to be sure that at the last moment He will forgive her and that she will believe in it. even if he did not confess and gave no sign of repentance.” She gives the reason for this certainty: “so much confidence did I have in the infinite mercy of Jesus”.[45] What emotion then when she discovers that Pranzini, mounted on the scaffold, "suddenly, seized by a sudden inspiration, turns around, seizes a Crucifix presented to him by the priest and kisses his sacred wounds three times!..." .[46] This intense experience of hoping against all hope was fundamental for her: “Since this unique grace, my desire to save souls grows every day”.[47]

29. She is aware of the drama of sin, even if we always see her introduced into the mystery of Christ, with the certainty that “where sin abounded, grace abounded more” (Rm 5:20). The sin of the world is immense, but it is not infinite. On the other hand, the merciful love of the Redeemer is infinite. Thérèse witnesses the definitive victory of Jesus over all the forces of evil through his passion, his death and his resurrection. Driven by confidence, she dares to write: “Jesus, make me save many souls, so that today there is not a single one damned […]. Jesus, forgive me if I say things that should not be said, I only want to rejoice and console you.”[48] This allows us to move on to another aspect of the fresh air that is the message of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

3. I will be love

30. “Greater” than faith and hope, charity will never fail (cf. 1 Cor 13:8-13). She is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, “the mother and root of all virtues”.[49]

Charity as a personal attitude of love

31. The Story of a Soul is a testimony of charity where Thérèse offers us a commentary on the new commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12)[50]. Jesus thirsts for this response to his love. Indeed, “he was not afraid to beg for a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty... But by saying: “give me a drink”, it was the love of his poor creature that the Creator of the universe demanded. He was thirsty for love…”[51] Thérèse wants to correspond to the love of Jesus, to return love for love.[52]

32. The symbolism of marital love expresses the reciprocity of self-giving between husband and wife. Thus, inspired by the Song of Songs (2, 16), she writes: “I think that my husband's heart is mine alone, as mine is his alone, and I then speak to him in the solitude of this delicious heart to heart while waiting to one day contemplate him face to face!..."[53] Even if the Lord loves us all together as a People, charity acts at the same time in a very personal way, “from heart to heart”.

33. Thérèse has the lively certainty that Jesus loved her and knew her personally in his Passion: “He loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). Contemplating Jesus in his agony, she said to him: “You live me”.[54] Likewise, she said to the Child Jesus in the arms of his Mother: “With your little hand which caressed Mary, You supported the world and You gave it life. And you were thinking of me.”[55]

Thus, always at the beginning of the Story of a Soul, she contemplates the love of Jesus for everyone, as if it were unique in the world.[56]

34. The act of love “Jesus, I love you”, continually experienced by Thérèse like a breath, is the key to her reading of the Gospel. She immerses herself with this love in all the mysteries of the life of Christ, of which she becomes a contemporary, inhabiting the Gospel with Mary and Joseph, Mary Magdalene and the Apostles. With them, she penetrates the depths of the love of the Heart of Jesus. Let's take an example: “When I see Madeleine advance in front of the numerous guests, watering with her tears the feet of her adored Master, whom she touches for the first time; I feel that her heart has understood the depths of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus and that, sinner as she is, this Heart of love is not only willing to forgive her, but also to lavish on her the benefits of its intimacy divine, to elevate it to the highest summits of contemplation”.[57]

The greatest love in the greatest simplicity

35. At the end of The Story of a Soul, Thérèse gives us her Offering as a Holocaust Victim to the Merciful Love of the Good God.[58] By giving herself over fully to the action of the Spirit, she receives, without noise or particular signs, the superabundance of living water: “The rivers, or rather the oceans of graces which have come to flood my soul…”.[ 59] It is the mystical life which, even devoid of extraordinary phenomena, is offered to all the faithful as a daily experience of love.

36. Thérèse lives charity in smallness, in the simplest things of daily life, and she does it in the company of the Virgin Mary, learning from her that “to love is to give everything and to give oneself -same”.[60] Indeed, while the preachers of her time often spoke of the greatness of Mary in a triumphalist way, distant from us, Thérèse shows, from the Gospel, that Mary is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven because she is the smallest (cf. Mt 18:4), the closest to Jesus in his humiliation. She sees that, if the apocryphal stories are filled with striking and marvelous passages, the Gospels show us a humble and poor existence, lived in the simplicity of faith. Jesus himself wants Mary to be the example of the soul that seeks him with stripped faith.[61] Mary was the first to live the “little way” in pure faith and humility; this is why Thérèse is not afraid to write:

“I know that in Nazareth, Mother full of graces

You live very poor, wanting nothing more

No delights, miracles, ecstasies

Do not embellish your life, O Queen of the Chosen!…

The number of little ones is great on earth

They can look up to you without trembling.

It is by the common way, incomparable Mother

May it please you to walk to guide them to Heaven. »[62]

37. Thérèse also gave us stories of moments of grace experienced in daily simplicity, for example her sudden inspiration while accompanying a sick sister with a difficult character. But they are always experiences of intense charity lived in the ordinary: “One winter evening, I was carrying out my little office as usual, it was cold, it was dark... Suddenly I I heard in the distance the harmonious sound of a musical instrument, then I pictured a well-lit living room, all gleaming with gilt, elegantly dressed young girls paying each other compliments and worldly courtesies; then my gaze fell on the poor sick woman whom I was supporting; instead of a melody I heard from time to time its plaintive moans, instead of gilding, I saw the bricks of our austere cloister, barely lit by a faint glow. I cannot express what happened in my soul, what I know is that the Lord illuminated it with the rays of truth which so surpassed the dark brilliance of the festivals of the earth, that I could not believe in my happiness… Ah! to enjoy worldly celebrations for a thousand years, I would not have given the ten minutes used to fulfill my humble office of charity...”[63]

At the heart of the Church

38. Teresa inherited from Saint Teresa of Avila a great love for the Church and was able to reach the depths of this mystery. We see this in his discovery of the “heart of the Church”. In a long prayer to Jesus,[64] written on September 8, 1896, the sixth anniversary of her religious profession, the Saint confided to the Lord that she was animated by an immense desire, by a passion for the Gospel that No vocation can satisfy on its own. Thus, in search of her “place” in the Church, she rereads chapters 12 and 13 of the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.

39. In chapter 12, the Apostle uses the metaphor of the body and its members to explain that the Church includes a wide variety of charisms ordered according to a hierarchical order. But this description is not enough for Thérèse. She continued her research, read the “hymn to charity” in chapter 13, found the great answer there and wrote this memorable page: “Considering the mystical body of the Church, I did not recognize myself in any of the members described by Saint Paul, or rather I wanted to recognize myself in everyone... Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body, composed of different members, it did not lack the most necessary, the noblest of all, I understood that the Church had a Heart, and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love alone made the members of the Church act, that if Love were to die out, the Apostles would no longer announce the Gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood... I understood that the Love contained all Vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places... in a word, that it is eternal!... So in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out : O Jesus, my Love… my vocation, finally I found it, my vocation, it is Love… Yes I found my place in the Church and this place, O my God, is you who gave it to me… in the Heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love… thus I will be everything… thus my dream will be realized!!!…”.[65]

40. This is not the heart of a triumphalist Church, it is the heart of a loving, humble and merciful Church. Thérèse never puts herself above others, but in last place with the Son of God who, for us, took the condition of servant and humbled himself, becoming obedient until death on a cross (cf .Phil 2:7-8).

41. Such a discovery of the heart of the Church is also a great light for us today, so as not to be scandalized by the limits and weaknesses of the ecclesiastical institution, marked by obscurities or sins, and to enter into his “heart burning with love” which was set ablaze on the day of Pentecost by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the heart whose fire is still rekindled by each of our acts of charity. “I will be love”: this is Thérèse’s radical choice, her definitive synthesis, her most personal spiritual identity.

rain of roses

42. Following many centuries during which many saints expressed, with great fervor and beauty, their desire to “go to heaven”, Saint Teresa recognizes with great sincerity: “I then had great interior trials of all kinds. kinds (to the point of sometimes asking myself if there was a Heaven)”.[66] At another point, she says: "When I sing of the happiness of Heaven, the eternal possession of God, I feel no joy, because I simply sing what I want to believe."[67] What was happening ? She heard God's call to set fire to the heart of the Church more than she dreamed of her own happiness.

43. The transformation that occurred within her allowed her to move from a fervent desire for Heaven to an ardent and continuous desire for the good of all, culminating in the dream of continuing in Heaven her mission of loving Jesus and make him love. In this sense, she wrote in one of her last letters: “I intend not to remain inactive in Heaven, my desire is to still work for the Church and souls”.[68] And at this same period, she said more directly: “My Heaven will take place on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my Heaven doing good on earth.”[69]

44. Thérèse thus expressed her most convinced response to the unique gift that the Lord gave her, to this surprising light that God poured into her. In this way she arrived at her final personal synthesis of the Gospel, which started from full trust and reached its culmination in total giving to others. She had no doubt about the fruitfulness of this gift: “I think of all the good I would like to do after my death”.[70] “The good Lord would not give me this desire to do good on earth after my death, if he did not want to realize it”.[71] “It will be like a shower of roses.”[72]

45. The circle closes. “It’s confidence.” It is the confidence that leads us to Love and thus frees us from fear, it is the confidence that helps us to look away from ourselves, it is the confidence that allows us to put into our hands of God what only he can do. This leaves us with an immense torrent of love and energies available to seek the good of the brothers. And so, in the midst of the suffering of her last days, she could say: “I only count on love”.[73] In the end, all that matters is love. Trust makes roses spring forth and spreads them like an overflow of the superabundance of divine love. Let us ask for it as a free gift, as a precious gift of grace, so that the paths of the Gospel may open in our lives.

4. At the heart of the Gospel

46. ​​In Evangelii gaudium, I insisted on the invitation to return to the freshness of the source to emphasize what is essential and indispensable. I believe it is appropriate to resume and re-offer this invitation.

The Synthesis Doctor

47. This Exhortation on Saint Thérèse allows me to recall that, in a missionary Church, “the announcement concentrates on the essential, on what is more beautiful, greater, more attractive and at the same time more necessary. The proposition becomes simpler, without losing depth and truth, and thus becomes more convincing and more luminous.[74] The luminous heart is “the beauty of the saving love of God manifested in Jesus Christ who died and rose again”.[75]

48. Not everything is central, because there is an order or hierarchy between the truths of the Church, and “this applies as much to the dogmas of faith as to all the teachings of the Church, including moral teaching”.[76] The center of Christian morality is charity which is the response to the unconditional love of the Trinity. This is why “the works of love towards our neighbor are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit”.[77] In the end, only love matters.

49. Precisely, the specific contribution that Thérèse offers us as Saint and as Doctor of the Church is not analytical, as that of Saint Thomas Aquinas could be, for example. Its contribution is rather synthetic, because its genius is to lead us to the center, to the essential, to the most essential. She shows through her words and through her personal journey that, even if all the teachings and norms of the Church have their importance, their value, their light, some are more urgent and more structuring in Christian life. This is where Thérèse put her eyes and her heart.

50. Theologians, moralists, thinkers of spirituality, as well as pastors and each believer in their environment, we must still collect this brilliant intuition of Thérèse and draw from it the consequences both theoretical and practical, both doctrinal and pastoral, both personal and community. . It takes audacity and inner freedom to achieve this.

51. We sometimes cite only peripheral expressions of this saint, or we mention questions that she may have in common with all the other saints: prayer, sacrifice, Eucharistic piety, and so many other beautiful testimonies. But, in doing so, we deprive ourselves of what is specific to it, of what it gives to the Church, because we forget that “each saint is a mission; it is a project of the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, an aspect of the Gospel”.[78] This is why, “to recognize what this word is that the Lord wants to say through a saint, we must not stop at the details […]. What must be considered is the whole of his life, his entire journey of sanctification, this figure which reflects something of Jesus Christ and which is revealed when we manage to perceive the meaning of the totality of his person. ”.[79] This is even more true for Saint Thérèse, who is “Doctor of synthesis”.

52. From heaven to earth, the news of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face remains in all its “small grandeur”.

In a time that invites us to lock ourselves into our particular interests, Thérèse shows us that it is beautiful to make life a gift.

At a time when the most superficial needs prevail, she witnesses evangelical radicalism.

In a time of individualism, it makes us discover the value of love which becomes intercession.

At a time when human beings are obsessed with greatness and new forms of power, she shows the path to smallness.

At a time when many human beings are rejected, she teaches us the beauty of being attentive, of caring for others.

At a moment of complexity, it can help us to rediscover simplicity, the absolute primacy of love, trust and abandonment, going beyond a legalistic and moralizing logic that fills Christian life with observances and precepts and freezes the joy of the Gospel.

In a time of withdrawal and confinement, Thérèse invites us on a missionary outing, conquered by the attraction of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

53. A century and a half after her birth, Thérèse is more alive than ever in the heart of the Church on the journey, in the heart of the People of God. She is on pilgrimage with us, doing good on earth, as she so desired. The countless “roses” that Thérèse spreads are the most beautiful sign of her spiritual vitality, that is to say the graces that God gives us through her love-filled intercession, to support us on the path of life.

Dear Saint Thérèse,

the Church needs to shine

the color, the scent, the joy of the Gospel.

Send us your roses.

Help us to always trust,

as you did,

in the great love that God has for us,

so that we can imitate every day

your little way of holiness.


Given in Rome, Saint John Lateran, October 15, memory of Saint Teresa of Avila, of the year 2023, the eleventh of my Pontificate.



[1] Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Complete Works, LT 197, to Sister Marie of the Sacré-Cœur (September 17, 1896), Paris 1996, p. 553.

Reference will always be made to this edition which uses the following abbreviations: Ms A: Autobiographical manuscript “A”; Ms B: Autobiographical manuscript “B”; Ms C: Autobiographical manuscript “C”; LT: Letters; PN: Poems; Pri: Prayers; CJ: “Yellow notebook”; DE: Final interviews.

[2] Pri 6, Offering of myself as a Holocaust Victim to the Merciful Love of the Good God (June 9, 1895), p. 963.

[3] For the period 2022-2023, UNESCO has listed Saint Teresa of Child Jesus and the Holy Face as a personality to be celebrated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of her birth.

[4] April 29, 1923.

[5] Cf. Decree on the virtues (August 14, 1921): AAS 13 (1921), pp. 449-452.

[6] Homily for the canonization (May 17, 1925): AAS 17 (1925), p. 211.

[7] Cf. AAS 20 (1928), pp. 147-148.

[8] Cf. AAS 36 (1944), pp. 329-330.

[9] Letter to Mgr F. Picaud, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux (August 7, 1947) in Analecta OCD 19 (1947), pp. 168-171; Radio message for the consecration of the Basilica of Lisieux (July 11, 1954): AAS 46 (1954), pp. 404-407.

[10] Cf. Letter to Mgr Jean-Marie-Clément Badré, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus (January 2, 1973): AAS 65 (1973), pp. 12-15.

[11] Cf. AAS 90 (1998), 409-413, pp. 930-944.

[12] Letter. after New Millennio ineunte (January 6, 2001), n. 42: AAS 93 (2001), p. 296.

[13] Catechesis (April 6, 2011): L'Osservatore Romano, ed. in French (April 7, 2011), p. 1.

[14] Cf. Catechesis (June 7, 2023): L'Osservatore Romano, ed. in French (June 8, 2023).

[15] LT 220, to Abbot Bellière (February 24, 1897), p. 576.

[16] Ms A, 69v°, p. 187.

[17] Cf. Ms C, 33v°-37r°, pp. 280-285.

[18] Cf. Exhortation. after Evangelii gaudium (November 24, 2013), n. 14: AAS 105 (2013), p. 1025-1026.

[19] Ms C, 34r°, p. 281.

[20] Ibid., 36r°, p. 284.

[21] CJ, June 9, 1897, 3, p. 1013.

[22] Cf. Ms C, 2v°-3r°, pp. 237-238.

[23] Ibid., 2v°, p. 237.

[24] Ibid., 3r°, p. 238.

[25] Cf. Ms A, 84v°, p. 213.

[26] Cf. Exhortation. after Gaudete et Exsultate (March 19, 2018), nn. 47-62: AAS 110 (2018), pp. 1124-1129.

[27] Ms A, 32r°, p. 120.

[28] The Council of Trent explained it this way: “Whoever considers himself, and his own weakness and evil disposition, can be filled with fear and fear concerning his grace” (Decree on Justification , IX: DS, n. 1534). The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes it up when it teaches that it is impossible to have certainty about our own feelings or our works (cf. n. 2005). The certainty of trust is not found in ourselves; one's own self does not provide the basis for this certainty, which is not based on introspection. In a way, Saint Paul expressed it this way: “I do not even judge myself. My conscience does not reproach me for anything, but that is not why I am righteous: he who submits me to judgment is the Lord” (1 Cor 4:3-4). Saint Thomas Aquinas explained it this way: since “grace is in some way imperfect in the sense that it does not completely heal man” (Summa I-II, q. 109, art. 9, ad 1) , “there also remains a certain obscurity of ignorance in the intelligence” (ibid., co).

[29] Pri 6, p. 963.

[30] Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2011.

[31] The Council of Trent also clearly states: “No pious man should doubt the mercy of God” (Decree on Justification, IX: DS, n. 1534). “All must place and rest in the help of God the firmest hope” (Ibid., XIII: DS, n. 1541).

[32] Ms B, 1v°, p. 220.

[33] Cf. Ms A, 48v°, p. 148; LT 92, to Marie Guérin (May 30, 1889), p. 393.

[34] Pri 6, p. 963.

[35] CJ, July 23, 1897, 3, p. 1054.

BOLLETTINO N. 0719 – 15.10.2023


[36] Ms C, 31rº, p. 277.

[37] Cf. ibid., 5rº-7vº, pp. 240-244.

[38] Ibid., 5vº, p. 241.

[39] Cf. ibid., 6vº, pp. 242-243.

[40] See Lett. inc. Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), n. 17: AAS 105 (2013), p. 564-565.

[41] Ms C, 7rº, p. 243.

[42] LT 197, to Sister Maríe of the Sacré Coeur (September 17, 1896), p. 553.

[43] Ms A, 83vº, p. 211.

[44] Cf. ibid., 45vº-46vº, pp. 143-145.

[45] Ibid., 46rº, p. 144.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid., 46vº, p. 144.

[48] Pri 2, p. 958.

[49] Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 62, art. 4.

[50] Cf. Ms C, 11v°-31r°, pp. 249-276.

[51] Ms B, 1vº, pp. 220-221.

[52] Cf. ibid., 4rº, pp. 227-228.

[53] LT 122, to Céline (October 14, 1890), p. 431.

[54] PN 24, 21, p. 697.

[55] Ibid., 6, p. 693.

[56] Cf. Ms A, 3rº, p. 73.

[57] LT 247, to Abbot Belliére (June 21, 1897), pp. 603-604.

[58] Cf. Pri 6, pp. 962-964.

[59] Ms A, 84rº, p. 212.

[60] PN 54, 22, p. 755.

[61] Cf. ibid., 15, p. 753

[62] Ibid., 17, p. 754.

[63] Ms C, 29vº-30rº, pp. 274-275.

[64] Cf. Ms B, 2r°-5v°: p. 222-232.

[65] Ibid., 3v°, p. 226.

[66] Ms A, 80v°, p. 205. It was not a lack of faith. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that in faith the will and the intelligence operate. The adhesion of the will can be very solid and rooted, while the intelligence can be obscured: cf. De Veritate 14, 1.

[67] Ms C, 7v°, p. 244.

[68] LT 254, to P. Roulland (July 14, 1897), p. 609.

[69] CJ, July 17, 1897, p. 1050.

[70] Ibid., July 13, 1897, 17, p. 1042.

[71] Ibid., July 18, 1897, 1, p. 1051.

[72] CJ, June 9, 1897, 3, p. 1013.

[73] LT 242, to Sister Marie of the Trinity (June 6, 1897), p. 599.

[74] Exhortation. after Evangelii gaudium (November 24, 2013), n. 35: AAS 105 (2013), p. 1034.

[75] Ibid., n. 36: AAS 105 (2013), p. 1035.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid., n. 37: AAS 105 (2013), p. 1035.

[78] Exhortation. after Gaudete et exsultate (March 19, 2018), n. 19: AAS 110 (2018), p. 1117.

[79] Ibid., n. 22: AAS 110 (2018), p. 1117.