“I feel that my mission is about to begin…”

“I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to teach souls my little way.”

“These words were spoken by St. Therese of the Child Jesus on July 17, 1897, a few months before her death on September 30, 1897. When her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, asked her ‘And what is this little way you want to teach to souls?’ Therese answered: ‘It is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender’.” (Story of A Soul, Intro. pp. xi)

St. Therese made this astounding prediction of her upcoming posthumous mission 120 years ago today. Her autobiography, Story of A Soul, spread like wildfire within years of her death and taught countless Catholics and non-Catholics how to live out her Little Way just as she had lived it out in her own life.

My goal with this website is to introduce the spiritual genius of St. Therese to those unfamiliar with her and to reintroduce her to those who thought they knew her and have since moved on. My name is Paul Fisher and I will tell you a little more about myself at a later time, but this website is not about me – it is about YOU. It is about your spiritual journey and your relationship with God and how St. Therese can help you immensely with both. After all, she is a Doctor of the Church so I’m far from the only one who believes this.

So let us get to know St. Therese and some of her spiritual friends together…

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2014 Comes To A Close

Well, 2014 is almost in the history books! In just over an hour the Ball will drop in Times Square and millions will ring in the New Year. Millions have already greeted 2015 in other parts of the world.

With the wave of excitement and anticipation now for the coming of 2015, we can forget that it is still the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas. I am so filled with gratitude that Jesus humbled himself out of love for me and for all of us in taking on our lowly humanity to save us from our sins. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

I am so grateful to the Lord for the great Solemnity of Christmas and for so many feasts and solemnities that we have celebrated throughout the year. Looking back on 2014 there have been countless blessings that I can thank God for – but there have also been a myriad of crosses to bear, trials to endure, and sufferings to offer up in love. Should I be any less grateful for these things than I am for the blessings? Of course not! Weak human nature balks at the sufferings, but as St. Therese observed, everything is a grace from God’s loving hands and that it was what He did that she loved.

In her beautiful Act of Oblation to Merciful Love St. Therese prayed, “I thank you, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering.” St. Therese went so far as to thank God in a special way for her sufferings. I have been quite sick the past four days and I can honestly say that my prayers of thanksgiving to God have not been quite as vibrant as they were before I became sick. This is proof that I’m not quite there yet, but I’m trying to imitate my Little Therese. My prayer is that in 2015 we may all love God more fervently and that we will give Him thanks for all our crosses as well as all our blessings.

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A Cure by the “Little Flower of Jesus”

A few weeks ago Maria and I attended a dinner party at the home of one of the ladies in our parish in honor of St. Therese. The woman had thought that because we loved St. Therese so much that we would like to meet a friend of hers, Paul Perrot, whose father had been cured of a childhood injury by St. Therese. We gladly accepted the invitation and eagerly anticipated hearing the story of the cure. Fr. Hamilton, a good friend of ours and a wonderful Catholic priest, was also invited to the dinner.

After some pleasant conversation over a glass of wine, Paul Perrot showed me an account of his father’s cure that was originally published in The Gesu, a bulletin of St. Joseph’s College dated April of 1915. The following is the exact letter regarding the cure written to the Superior of the Philadelphia Carmel, Mother Beatrix of the Holy Spirit, by Emile Perrot, Paul Perrot’s grandfather:

Reverend and Dear Mother:–
“The following is a narrative of what took place on Friday evening, December 4th, 1914 (the first Friday of December), at our home, 1405 N. 16th Street.

At about seven o’clock our smallest child, Paul John, two years and 10 months, was playing with his older brother in the house, when he tripped and fell, cutting his lower lip and the inside of his cheek on the right side, so that a piece of flesh of his cheek or tongue was hanging loose. The child was picked up by his little brother when the maid, a colored girl, took the child and held him until his mother arrived , which was almost immediately. Her first effort was to find the extent of the child’s injury and after examining his lip and mouth found the cheek or tongue badly lacerated or cut on the inside of the right cheek and his lower lip slightly cut. About this time I arrived home. I looked at the child’s mouth while he was still in his mother’s arms and saw the cut lip and lacerated cheek or tongue on the inside of his right cheek. Not knowing what to do I suggested that the baby be taken to a doctor, but before doing so, I took the child in my arms and approached near to the gas light to make sure of the extent of his injury, so as to determine whether a visit to the doctor would be necessary.

The cut lower lip and lacerated cheek or tongue with its loose piece of flesh was plainly visible to me, and I told my wife to get the child ready and I would take him in the automobile to the doctor. Immediately my wife carried the baby upstairs to dress him. I followed, when in our bedroom I thought of the relic of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, which I had and to which we had a devotion, the relic being a “piece of the curtain from the infirmary bed” of Sister Teresa which I obtained from your Sisters. I asked the baby to kiss it, which he did, and I also made the sign of the cross on his forehead with the relic, after which I returned it to the cardcase in which I carried it about my person.

We started with the child for the doctor’s but found at arriving at the office of our family physician that he was not at home. We were instructed by his maid to call on his assistant, Dr. J.B. Mencke of 16th Street below Girard Avenue. We took the child to Dr. Mencke and told what had happened. He took the child in his arms, to make him feel at home with him. After a few minutes he asked the child to open his mouth, which he did and to our surprise and that of the doctor’s the cheek was perfectly clear with no signs of a cut or bruise present: the lower lip, however, still had the little cut.

Mrs. Perrot and myself were amazed at the fact that the child had no cut inside his mouth and did not know what to say to the doctor in explanation. We were at first under the impression that we were deceived and that the child had something in his mouth which he had swallowed, and with that we started back home with the child. On arriving home the thought occurred to me that a miracle had been wrought, and that the child had been cut inside the cheek, and the application of the relic before going to the doctor had effected a cure.

We had not looked into his mouth after applying the relic, the doctor being the first one who saw inside his mouth thereafter. We said no other prayers nor invoked any other assistance before or after applying the relic.

In addition to my wife and myself seeing the lacerated cheek, the colored maid and two of the older children, Mary and Agnes by name, saw the wound, and all declare that they saw flesh hanging on the inside of the baby’s cheek.

The baby himself, after the cure, when asked where he had hurt himself, would point to the lower lip and to the inside of his mouth at the right side, which only corroborates our story. We, therefore, wish to make this public thanksgiving to Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus for what she has done for us and to encourage others to have recourse to her, knowing full well that Almighty God is pleased to favor those who have faith in Him and in His Saints.”

Emile G. Perrot
(The Gesu – St. Joseph’s College, Easter Number, April, 1915, Vol. XXI, No. 4, p. 24-25)

Needless to say I am very grateful to Paul Perrot giving me permission to share the story of his father’s childhood cure and for giving me a copy of the account. This cure took place in 1914 shortly after the Process of Canonization was opened for Therese and a full nine years before she was beatified and eleven years before she was canonized! St. Therese in the Shower of Roses after her death in 1897 performed countless such miracles, but it is great to hear a personal account of someone whose family experienced such a miracle.

We had a wonderful catered meal at the home of Jeannie Pegg that evening and enjoyed pleasant conversation about many Catholic topics, especially about St. Therese.

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Our Guardian Angels Are Always Present to Love and Protect Us

Today is the Feast Day of the Guardian Angels. It is a day when the Church celebrates the heavenly creatures that God has charged with protecting us throughout our earthly pilgrimage. “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91: 11-12)

St. Therese had a very strong devotion to the angels and writes about them frequently throughout her Autobiography and Letters. She writes from her monastery a letter of encouragement to her sister Celine who is experiencing many challenges in her life that, “Jesus has placed near you an angel from heaven who is always looking after you; he carries you in his hands lest your foot strike against a stone. You do not see him, and yet he is the one who for twenty-five years has preserved your soul…” (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, p. 850)

I know that in my own life my guardian angel, David, has certainly earned plenty in overtime pay in protecting me from bodily and spiritual harm! I can give a few examples to prove my point. When I was 11 my family was vacationing in a mountain lodge in West Virginia. There was a large grassy area where my second-cousin and I were throwing a tennis ball back and forth. He sailed a throw way over my head and I turned and ran after it as fast as I could. All I remember was feeling the ground leave my feet and then feeling an intense pain in my legs as I came to a jarring stop. I had run off a cliff and landed on the only drainage pipe for hundreds of yards about six feet down the cliff! I may have been killed if I didn’t land on that one, lone pipe. My father was eventually able to pull me up to safety. A bit of luck…I think not!

On another occasion when I was 14 my friend, Patrick, was sleeping over my house and we thought it would be a brilliant idea to climb in some houses that were under construction at 3AM. Oh yeah, did I mention that it was February? We climbed up onto the roof of one of the houses some 30 feet above the ground. All was going well until I slipped on a patch of ice, began sliding down the peak of the roof on my stomach, and fell the full 30 feet down to the ground! Patrick screamed, “PAUL!!!!” and helplessly watched as I plummeted to my inevitable death. Amazingly I landed in a pile of soft rubble and didn’t even endure a scratch! When the shock wore off, I shouted up to Patrick that I was OK. When he climbed down to my landing spot we both noticed that a large, steel spike was sticking out of the ground just feet away from my landing spot and would have impaled me if I had landed on it! Nobody can convince me that my guardian angel did not preserve my life that night.

I could tell several other such stories about how my guardian angel protected me, but I will share them at a later date. St. Bernard honors the angels with the following words in one of his famous sermons. “And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need” (Sermon by St. Bernard, The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 1454).

May we always be grateful to our guardian angels for their service, love, and protection. Thank you, David, my guardian angel!

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One of My Favorite Days of the Year – The Feast Day of St. Therese!

We all have days during the course of the year that are very special to us. For some it is a birthday or an anniversary. For others it is a holiday occasion. For me, without a doubt, St. Therese’s Feast Day on October 1st is one of my favorite days of the year.

I hope that all of you who have a special devotion to St. Therese had a blessed and holy day, too. Please write in at paul@stthereseofthechildjesus.com and let me know how you and your family celebrated this great day.

In the past I have celebrated St. Therese’s Feast Day by giving a presentation on her life and teachings or by hosting a special dinner at our place with family and friends in her honor. This year Maria and I are both getting over colds and so our celebration was simple and quiet. I was off of work today so we had the entire day free.

We attended a noon mass at a parish near us where the Augustinian priest gave an insightful and inspiring homily about how St. Therese loved God in the simple and humble tasks and that her life was not focused on miracles and the extraordinary. After a pleasant lunch at a small café, we made a Holy Hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at another small chapel named in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I agree with Mother Teresa of Calcutta that the best hours spent on this earth are those before the Blessed Sacrament.

We next went to a private garden where we have a seasonal membership called Chanticleer. It is one of the most beautiful private gardens in the U.S. featuring around 50 acres of exotic trees and plants, gardens, streams, ponds, and rolling hills. We had the place mostly to ourselves and we strolled for an hour or more through the idyllic grounds.

Every time I am around flowers of any kind I cannot help but recall the story that St. Therese tells in her Autobiography that eventually led to her famous moniker of the Little Flower. When writing some years later about the day she confided her desire to enter the Carmelite Monastery to her father, she described the following: “What I do recall, however, is a symbolic action my dear King performed, not realizing its full meaning. Going up to a low wall, he pointed to some little white flowers, like lilies in miniature, and plucking one of them, he gave it to me, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it to that very day. While I listened, I believed I was hearing my own story, so great was the resemblance between what Jesus had done for the little flower and little Therese” (Story of A Soul, p. 108).

I hope everyone had a wonderful Feast Day of St. Therese and we look forward to honoring our guardian angels tomorrow on their feast day.

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It is Good to Be Back

It is GOOD to be back! It has been too long. Really, I mean it.

Let me begin by saying that I apologize for my long absence from my blog. I will try to catch up on sending out free reports to all of you who requested them.

2014 has been an uneven and challenging year for me and Maria to say the least. Perhaps at a later date I will go into more detail, but suffice it to say that now is not the time.

I will mention one thing. Maria and I both took four graduate classes in counseling this Summer at Immaculata University so that we can obtain our counseling licenses. I will be sitting for the National Counselor Exam this Fall and will hopefully obtain my license soon after passing the exam. Of course I assume I will pass the exam! The license will open up many doors for employment.

Maria, in addition to completing her license, is also putting the finishing touches on her novel, The Summoned Guest. I read the novel and it is great! We can only hope that the general reading public likes it as much as us who have already read it. I’m sure they will.

Now that I have explained what is going on with us, I can get back to talking about the main subject of this website – St. Therese of Lisieux. Today is September 30th and St. Therese died 117 years ago today after enduring intense sufferings from tuberculosis. After her lengthy passion, which is so well-chronicled in the Last Conversations, St. Therese went to be with Him whom she had so ardently desired. We may not be called to endure such sufferings as St. Therese, but the Lord will certainly give us crosses to bear in our lives to purify us in His love. We can hope that after bearing our crosses faithfully we will obtain the same prize as St. Therese – an eternity in heaven.

Seven weeks before her death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese wrote to Sister Marie of the Trinity, “May your life be all of humility and love in order that you may come to where I am going: into the arms of Jesus!…” (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, p. 1175)

Once again, I am so happy to be back.

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Conclusion of the Year of Faith and the Sacrament of Confirmation

On Sunday, Novenmber 24th the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King and the closing of the Year of Faith. The Year of Faith had been a wonderful 13 month period where the Church encouraged her children to focus on such tools as Holy Scripture, the Holy Eucharist and the Catechism to help us recalibrate on the journey of faith toward the object of our faith – Christ Our King and Lord. I was privileged to give 11 presentations on St. Therese and the Year of Faith to 9 different parishes and prayer groups during the special year. Pope Francis, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, and bishops and priests around the world concluded the Year of Faith with special masses. My parish of St. Isaac Jogues was no exception.

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on scores of children and teenagers at St. Isaac Jogues on the Solemnity of Christ the King. What a beautiful day to receive that Sacrament of Confirmation that perfects Baptism, unites one more closely to Christ and His Church, and enriches with the gift of the Holy Spirit! As a matter of fact, the Bishop actually conferred Confirmation on each recipient with the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the holy Spirit.” As a successor of the Apostles, the Bishop used his authority to bestow this great gift. “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8: 14-17) It was a beautiful sight to see each child process up before the Bishop with their parent or sponsor behind and receive that great gift. I recall receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation the same day that I received my First Communion when I entered the Church as an adult at the Easter Vigil in 1991.

St. Therese in her Autobiography vividly describes her own Confirmation in 1884. “A short time after my First Communion, I entered upon another retreat for my Confirmaton, I was prepared with great care to receive the visit of the Holy Spirit, and I did not understand why greater attention was not paid to the reception of this sacrament of Love. Ordinarily, there was only one day of retreat made for Confirmation, but the Bishop was unable to come on the appointed day and so I had the consolation of having two days of solitude. Like the Apostles, I awaited the Holy Spirit’s visit with great happiness in my soul. I rejoiced at the thought of soon being a perfect Christian and especially at that of having eternally on my forehead the mysterious cross the Bishop marks when conferring this sacrament. Finally the happy moment arrived, and I did not experience an impetuous wind at the moment of the Holy Spirit’s descent but rather this light breeze which the prophet Elias heard on Mount Horeb.” (Story of A Soul, pp. 80) St. Therese expressed in these words how much she valued this profound and underrated Sacrament and her personal experiences and disposition during that day. I do not know what was running through the minds of those who received Confirmaton at St. Isaac Jogues last Sunday, but the smiles on their faces and those of their loved ones spoke volumes.

Please write in and share any of your experiences from the Year of Faith.

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Feast Day of the Little Flower

Today is one of my favorite days of the year – the Feast Day of the Little Flower. It is a day to remember the “greatest saint of modern times” and to honor her for her shining example of Christian holiness. St. Therese teaches us that we don’t have to accomplish great works in order to grow in God’s love, but simply have to abandon ourselves into His arms with complete childlike confidence. St. Therese was on a continual quest to discover God’s will for her and, once convinced of His will, she tried to conform her life to it with unwavering fortitude and determination. We can look to her example so that we can try to do the same in our own lives. It isn’t easy, but it is worth the effort.

I was very excited today to have many people sign the guestbook on the website and to request information about St. Therese. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported this website and ministry over the past two years with your encouragement, prayers, and financial support. It reminds me how many people around the world love St. Therese and turn to her for her intercession and guidance.

October 1st is a very special day that I like to spend praying to St. Therese and thanking her for her example, love, and guidance. I assisted at Holy Mass today and Maria and I made a Holy Hour at a local parish that concluded with the priest giving all of us Benediction. St. Therese loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament so much and truly wanted to see God loved by all. The best way that I could think to honor St. Therese on her Feast Day was to worship Jesus, the One she loved so dearly, at mass and at the Blessed Sacrament.

Happy Feast Day of St. Therese of Lisieux – Co-Patroness of the Missions, Co-Patroness of France, and Doctor of the Church!

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The Black Briefcase

It was a mystery that many wanted to solve. What could be in the black briefcase that Pope Francis carried to and from scheduled events on his recent trip to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro?

On the flight back to Rome Pope Francis put an end to the mystery. “The keys to the atomic bomb weren’t in it”, Francis quipped. “Rather”, he said, “the bag merely contained a razor, his breviary prayer book, his agenda, and a book on St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom he is particularly devoted.” All the contents were pretty mundane, except, of course, that the last item really caught my attention.

I knew that Pope Francis had a strong devotion to St. Therese and prayed to her for guidance, but why would he bring a book on her to World Youth Day? It could be that he just happened to be reading it at the time and simply brought it with him to finish. I cannot prove it, but I suspect that it might have to do with the fact that a major theme of the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro was to be missionaries for Christ and St. Therese of Lisieux just happens to be the Co-Patron of the Universal Missions.

On December 14, 1927 Pope Pius XI, the same pope who had canonized St. Therese two years earlier, declared her to be Patroness of the Universal Missions of the Church along with St. Francis Xavier. Even though St. Therese never left her monastery after she entered at the age of 15, her Autobiography, Story of A Soul, reveals her intense and sustained missionary spirit throughout her life. Just ten weeks before her death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese made the following astonishing statement to her sister, Pauline: “I feel that I’m about to enter into my rest. But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world.” (St. Therese of Lisieux – her last conversations, pp. 102)

St. Therese had spent her entire life loving God and praying for the conversion of sinners that they might do the same. The fecundity of her missionary spirit naturally emerged from her deep, loving relationship that she had with Jesus through her contemplative prayer in the monastery. She fell passionately in love with Jesus and then offered all her prayers and sacrifices in her quiet, mundane life so that others might love God as she loved Him. St. Therese was a model in this and it is why she was declared Co-Patron of the Missions even though she lived a contemplative life.

Pope Francis understands deeply that for the missions to be successful people need to grow in prayer and only then share their own love for Jesus with others. At the World Youth Day last week in Rio de Janeiro the Holy Father exorted the young people to get to know Jesus in prayer and then to go out to share the Gospel with others. He said that Christians should not close in on themselves, but become fully alive by loving others in actions. He wants all people, especially the young, to love God and to share their love of God. In other words, he wants them to live out St. Therese’s msisionary goal “to love God and to make Him loved”.

Maybe that is why Pope Francis had a book about St. Therese in his famous black briefcase. It is only conjecture, because he didn’t say why he had that particular book. But what we do know is that the theme of mission was very prevalent at World Youth Day and St. Therese, as the Patroness of Missions, had a lot to say about spreading God’s love to all without exception.

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The Little Green Pea

Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39) St. Therese understood and lived out both of these commandments of Our Lord to a heroic degree. She exemplified the living out of the second commandment when she went out of her way to spend time with the nuns in the convent who appeared depressed or lonely. She reached out habitually to those who were suffering or who had difficult personalities.

St. Therese spoke about the importance of fraternal charity in the following story. “Oh! the unfathomable tenderness of God’s exquisite mercy towards the weak and imperfect. I marvel when I see how He always seems to surround them with His protecting love. We should react in the same way to the peculiar needs of our neighbour. Even in nature we have a faint image of this provident concern of the Creator when we compare the course bean with the little green pea. Although both must endure alike the heat of the day and the chill of night, yet the attractive little pea, you will notice, has not received the extra protection of the tough outer covering of the unattractive bean. Therefore in imitation of Our Heavenly Father let us also bestow a more indulgent love and protective care on those who have the greater need.” (My Sister Saint Therese, p. 131-132)

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