October 1st! The mornings here in Toronto are crisp and cool, the days are still warm and welcoming, the leaves are changing colour. It’s a favourite time of year for me. And as I’ve written in the past
, liturgically it’s a great time for saintly celebrations: we’ve got the Archangels, the Guardian Angels, St. Jerome, St. Francis, and of course, today, the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
We’re quite fond of St. Thérèse here at Salt + Light. Many of our staff have a devotion to here, and she was also a patron of World Youth Day in Toronto, the event that Salt + Light sprung from.
It’s appropriate that we begin this month with Thérèse’s feast. It is traditionally a month that the Church recalls her Missionary work — in fact on October 24th, we celebrate World Mission Sunday (you can read Pope Benedict’s 2010 message for that day here. Thérèse longed to be a missionary, but God’s will for her was to remain in the convent, where she died in 1897 at the age of 24.
Of course, God works in mysterious ways and her desire to bring Christ to people in distant lands has been fulfilled after her death. Thérèse must have had a sense of this as she proclaimed “I will spend my Heaven doing good on Earth.” She has become one of the most beloved saints, not only in France, but throughout the world. In 1927, she was even declared co-patron of missions with Francis Xavier!
Her supreme desire was to love the Lord and make him loved, working for the glorification of the Church and the salvation of souls, as she stresses in the prayer in which she offers herself as a holocaust to merciful love.
Little Therese’s experience represents an exceptional form of dedication to the cause of evangelization, which is rooted in the path of holiness, an indispensable presupposition of any missionary vocation. As I recalled in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio
, ‘the universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission.’ (4)
This important linking of holiness and mission is again expressed in Pope Benedict XVI’s mission prayer intention for the month of October. It is:
That World Mission Day may afford an occasion for understanding that the task of proclaiming Christ is an absolutely necessary service to which the Church is called for the benefit of humanity.
For us as Catholics, it is a necessary service to proclaim Christ, to reflect the Gospel in our lives, to share it with others. And it’s for the benefit of humanity — our benefit! This is what we are created for: to know God, to love God, to be with Him forever!
The Holy Father’s general prayer intention for the month centres on knowing God through the means of formal education. It is:
That Catholic universities may more and more be places where, in the light of the Gospel, it is possible to experience the harmonious unity existing between faith and reason.
Pope Benedict’s trip to the United Kingdom offered many addresses and homilies that touched on the relationship between faith and reason. Check out our blog postings containing the text from the Apostolic Journey — two examples are the Pope’s homily at Cardinal Newman’s Beatification Mass, or his address to representatives of British Society.
And as we keep the Papal Intentions for October in our prayers, let’s remember to seek the intercession of the missionary who never left her Carmelite convent, but continues to bring the Gospel to the world. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!