Saturday, October 01, 2016

St Therese: Virgin, Doctor and...#MediaNun?

Today's feast is a great one for us "media nuns." Therese of Lisieux, the unlikely co-patron of the missions, is also an honorary media nun despite her having died only two years after the very first motion-picture projector was debuted by the Lumiere brothers. Her runaway best-seller captivated the world, establishing new beachheads of spirituality everywhere a well-read copy of "Story of a Soul" reached, and the photographs of Therese, taken within the convent walls by her talented sister, Celine, make her one of the most recognizable faces of holiness in all of Church history.
Painting of Therese by her sister, Sr Celine
(at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Darien, IL).

But those are just the superficial reasons for calling Therese a media nun. According to Blessed James Alberione, a media apostle is someone who carries Jesus in his or her heart and radiates him to others through all available forms of communication. For Therese, the most accessible form of communication was the same one used so effectively by St. Paul: letter writing.

Therese's letters (1300 pages of them!) far outweigh the total output of Story of a Soul, those six notebooks of autobiographical reflection set in writing under obedience to her sister (and superior). In those letters, Therese applied her "little Way" to the varied situations of the receivers, communicating to them the treasure that God had so generously revealed to her.

But that is not all.

For Alberione, there are numerous ways to give Christ to souls. In his book, Mary, Queen of the Apostles, he outlines six basic "apostolates" that can be carried out by anyone, in any state in life (and that is before he even gets to the media apostolate):
  • The Apostolate of the Interior Life
  • The Apostolate of Desires
  • The Apostolate of Prayer
  • The Apostolate of Example
  • The Apostolate of Suffering
  • The Apostolate of Beneficence (which he describes in terms of love of neighbor)
Perhaps the reason the Story of a Soul was so powerful that it transcended and continues to transcend the bounds of culture, history and language is because in her own words, Therese carries out even today all of those apostolates. As a Doctor of the Church, she continues to teach, to encourage, to rouse the languid through her unique "little way" (accessible to anyone!), and through the ardor of her desires, the help of her prayers (that "shower of roses" she promised from heaven), the witness of her example (which anyone who takes her seriously realizes was a hard-won battle), the depths of suffering (not only her own intense agony at the end of her life, the the suffering she endured in witnessing her dear father's descent into madness), and the easily-overlooked fraternal charity she had so many opportunities to practice in the confines of Carmel.

Thanks be to God, we have this appealing witness, this extraordinary sister in Christ!

For your bookshelf:
Story of a Soul 
Letters of St Therese (vol. 1)
Letters of St Therese (vol. 2)
St. Therese of Lisiex: Her Last Conversations
Holy Daring: The Fearless Trust of St Therese of Lisieux
My Vocation is Love: St Therese's Way to Total Trust
Therese of Lisieux (Saints by Our Side series)

For children:
Search for the Hidden Garden: A Discovery with St Therese (story book)
St Therese of Lisieux: The Way of Love (chapter book)

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