St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the Pandemic
If you are scared, frustrated, angry, frightened, restless, and/or torn between staying in bed (doors locked, sheets pulled up over your head) and going out somewhere — anywhere — before you go stir crazy (or your kids do), you are certainly not alone!
The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which we celebrated so recently, is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the U.S.A. Moreover, falling as it does 9 months before Jesus’ birth at Christmas, this March 25th date often means the Annunciation is a transposed feast – if it falls in Holy Week or Easter Week, it gets transferred to somewhere around the second Monday of Easter and so March 25 may not normally be a day when Catholics in our country always make it to Mass.
Normally. Isn’t that an interesting word? We are living in a time when the new normal means hunkering down at home, watching too much news, and being deprived of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and there isn’t even a war on, or the threat of nuclear destruction! Thanks be to God for these graces, and yet, what a sacrifice for so many: to be deprived of attendance at Mass and its concomitant Gift of gifts, Holy Communion.
Thankfully, the Mass is still alive and well, and priests are getting holier by the day with the devout celebration of their daily Masses, even without their flocks, our own little selves, in the churches. As Cardinal Nichols wrote in his pastoral letter this past week:
The highest form of prayer is the celebration of the Holy Mass. This is at the heart of the rhythm of the life of the Church, the rhythm of prayer which sustains us all. The present crisis will not disturb that rhythm. Mass will continue to be celebrated, day by day. The prayer of the Church will continue day by day.
And yet, consoling as this fact is, the other sad fact also remains, that for many of the faithful, because we cannot be physically present at the Mass, we cannot physically receive Holy Communion with Jesus, our Savior and the Spouse of our souls.
The Church is our Mother, and she makes accommodations for times of emergency. Just as some of us may be allowing our children a few more indulgences (like movies in Lent, or a s’more if the opportunity arises) than are typical in Lent – in compensation for the unusual sacrifices (time with friends, or even leaving the house) required of our families in this particular Lent—so our Holy Mother Church is making accommodations.
Can’t go to Mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist? Perhaps no opportunity to go to confession? Don’t let that stop you from reaping enormous and eternal fruits from your charity and sacrifice this Lent, says our Mama. On St. Joseph’s Day — the day of the guardian of the Universal Church, that strong, silent, magnificent Saint who stands behind our Mother always — the Apostolic Penitentiary issued a Decree on the granting of Special Indulgences to the Faithful in the current Pandemic. The Vatican said, in short, that we can all gain a plenary indulgence by an act of prayer as simple as saying the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross — without the usual conditions, since these usual conditions (Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confession, in
particular) are unusually impossible to fulfill for many at this time. Though it’s always a good practice to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions.
Hooray for grace, which knows every season and none, filling them all with God’s Life and Love!
The Saints, too, our older brothers and sisters, are always watching over us closely, and we can be sure they’re ready to assist us at a moment’s notice as our Mother would have them do. But one special grace of these days is the panoply of Saints especially interested in helping us now. There is St. Corona finally having her moment in the sun, happy to help us out in our national emergency. There are the Fourteen Holy Helpers, long a source of intercessory power for the Church and the world during plagues, pestilences, and pandemics, at the ready now – every one of them, some known and some relatively unknown – to act on our behalf, begging God’s grace for the relief of those suffering, His consolation for those afraid, and His powerful mercy to end the threat and spread of the Coronavirus.
But alongside the great Saints, there are, too, the little Saints, and chief among them the littlest Flower of all, St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Having promised to spend her Heaven doing good on earth, little Thérèse can never resist any chance to shower her roses down upon the whole world, and whether the crisis be personal or international, she’s very close and ready to fulfill her mission to make God loved as she loves Him.
Are you ready for her to bring into your life Something New?
This youngest Doctor of the Church has, actually, two new things to share with us in these very unusual days. She has, in particular, one outrageous new thing which is nothing less than the solution to our awful separation from Jesus in Holy Communion, and then, also, she has a little new thing, a book of Stations of the Cross illuminated by her love and wisdom and shining with the light of Spiritual Childhood.
In Something New with St. Thérèse, she shares the Eucharistic miracle by which Jesus satisfied her desire to receive Him in Communion much more frequently than seemed possible. Although this Eucharistic grace has been mostly hidden for over a hundred years, Providence seems delighted to reveal it now so that no one need be deprived of Our Lord’s Real Presence. St. Thérèse is inviting all little souls, as she invited those around her in the Lisieux Carmel at the end of her earthly exile, to live this miracle so as never to be separated from Jesus again.
But there is more. If you are stuck at home, or rather, let’s say, if you are given the grace of being at home, you and those around you (within or without 6 safe feet of distance!) can earn a plenary indulgence for yourselves or the Holy Souls, thanks to the Vatican’s recent decree. One of the prayers suggested for earning the plenary indulgence is the Stations of the Cross, so fitting for Lent and times of suffering — a little Way which unites us to Jesus in His Passion, and allows us to meditate on His infinitely tender love for us.
St. Thérèse knows we can’t make the Stations in our usual Friday night parish settings. So why not make them at home? And why not use her own meditations on Christ’s humility and gentleness (alongside our poverty and weakness) to illuminate the 14 Stations and our own hearts?
Pandemic of fear? I think not – not when Perfect Love casts out fear. May He cast out all fear and anxiety from your heart and home, and bless you with His nearness, filling you with the joy the Saints know so well.