At today's General Audience, continuing the cycle of catechesis on 'Passion for Evangelization', Pope Francis pointed out that "the Church, rather than many means, methods and structures, which at times distract from what is essential, needs hearts like Teresa's, hearts that attract love and bring people closer to God".
The Holy Father was referring to St. Therese of the Child Jesus, universal patroness of the missions, whose relics were at his side in St. Peter's Square. "It is beautiful that this is happening while we are reflecting on the passion for evangelization, on apostolic zeal. Today, therefore, let us allow ourselves to be helped by the witness of St. Therese. She was born 150 years ago, and on this anniversary I intend to dedicate an Apostolic Letter to her", the Pontiff announced, shortly before being admitted to the Gemelli for a surgery abdominal.
Reflecting on the saint Carmelite of Lisieuxthe Holy Father said in the AudienceShe is the patroness of the missions, but she was never on mission. She was a barefoot Carmelite nun and her life was under the sign of smallness and weakness: she defined herself as "a small grain of sand".
In frail health, he died at the age of 24. But although her body was sick, her heart was vibrant, missionary. In her 'diary' she tells that being a missionary was her desire and that she wanted to be a missionary not only for a few years but for her whole life, indeed, until the end of the world".
"Like a hidden engine."
Teresa was "spiritual sister" of several missionaries, the Pope noted. "From the monastery she accompanied them with prayer and with the letters she sent them. Without appearing she interceded for the missions, like an engine that, hidden, gives a vehicle the strength to go forward."
"However," she stressed, "she was often not understood by the nuns: she received from them 'more thorns than roses', but she accepted everything with love and patience, offering, along with her illness, also judgments and misunderstandings". And "she did it with joy, for the needs of the Church, so that, as she said, "roses would be spread over all", especially over those who were farthest from God".
The Pope then asked: "Where does all this zeal, this missionary strength and this joy of intercession come from? Two episodes that happened before Teresa entered the monastery help us to understand it," he continued.
Christmas 1886: forgetting oneself
This is how the Pope summed it up. "The first refers to the day that changed her life, Christmas 1886, when God worked a miracle in her heart. Teresa was just short of her fourteenth birthday. Being the youngest daughter, at home she was spoiled by everyone".
"On his return from midnight Mass, the fatherThe very tired Teresa, who did not feel like attending the opening of her daughter's gifts, said: "Thank goodness it's the last year! Teresa, a very sensitive character and prone to tears, felt bad, went up to her room and cried. But she quickly recovered from the tears, came downstairs and full of joy, it was she who encouraged the father".
"What had happened? That night, in which Jesus had made himself weak out of love, she had become strong in spirit: in a few moments she had left the prison of her selfishness and her lamentation; she began to feel that "charity was entering her heart, with the need to forget herself".
"From then on she directed her zeal to others, so that they might find God and instead of seeking consolation for herself, she proposed to 'console Jesus, to make him love souls', because - noted Therese, Doctor of the Church - 'Jesus is sick with love and [...] the sickness of love can only be cured with love' (Letter Marie Guérin, July 1890)". And "her zeal, following the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd, was directed above all to sinners, to those 'far away'".
Who is a missionary
This predilection for sinners and the 'estranged' is revealed in the second episode, the Pope stressed. "Teresa learned of a criminal condemned to death for horrible crimes, Enrico Pranzini: considered guilty of the brutal murder of three people, he was destined to the guillotine, but he did not want to receive the consolation of faith. Teresa took him very seriously and did everything she could: she prayed in every way for his conversion, so that the one whom, with fraternal compassion, she called 'poor wretched Pranzini', might have a small sign of repentance and make room for the mercy of God, in whom Teresa blindly trusted. The execution took place".
"The next day Teresa read in the newspaper that Pranzini, shortly before resting his head on the scaffold 'turned, took the crucifix presented to him by the priest and kissed his sacred wounds three times!'" the Holy Father said.
"This is the power of intercession moved by charity, love, this is the driving force of the mission," the Pope reflected. "In fact, missionaries, of whom Teresa is patroness, are not only those who go a long way, learn new languages, do good works and are very good at announcing; no, missionary is anyone who lives, where he is, as an instrument of God's love; he is the one who does everything so that, through his witness, his prayer and his intercession, Jesus may come through. each one of us is called to this missionary vocation."
"This is apostolic zeal which, let us always remember, never works by proselytism, never, or by constriction, never, but by attraction: one does not become a Christian because one is forced by someone, but because one is touched by love," he added. In conclusion, Francis
encouraged: "Let us ask the saint for the grace to overcome our selfishness and the passion to intercede so that Jesus may be known and loved".
French and Spanish speakers: Heart of Jesus
During the Audience, the Pope gave "a cordial welcome to the French-speaking pilgrims, in particular the delegations from the dioceses of Séez and Bayeux-Lisieux, led by their respective bishops, who are accompanying the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus on the 150th anniversary of her birth and the centenary of her beatification". And he added: "Let us ask our Saint for the grace to love Jesus as she loved Him, to offer Him our trials and sorrows, as she did, so that He may be known and loved by all".
To the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, he pointed out that "in this month of the Heart of JesusLet us ask the Lord to make our hearts like his, and that we may be his instruments so that he may 'go about doing good'. Like St. Therese, who lived given to God and forgetful of herself, loving and consoling Jesus, and interceding for the salvation of all. May God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin watch over you".
The Pope also cordially greeted the Poles: "Witness to Jesus by the example of your lives, persevere in Christian charity and support for the Ukrainians", and "all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the groups from Scotland, Indonesia and the United States of America. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you".
As for the Italian-speaking friars, Francis greeted the Pious Union of Christian Mothers of the Diocese of Iasi (Romania), the religious of the Consolata Missionary Institute and the Consolata Missionary Sisters who are celebrating their respective General Chapters, whom he encouraged to "always walk with joy in the ways of the Lord".
The Pope has referred to the upcoming Solemnity of the Corpus ChristiI now address my thoughts to the young, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds, inspired by the upcoming feast of Corpus Christi, which celebrates the Eucharist, the center and source of the Church's life. Let them draw close to Jesus with frequency and devotion, Bread of Life who gives strength, light and joy, and He will become the source of your choices and actions," he said.
On Thursday, pray for peace with Catholic Action
Finally, the Holy Father informed that "tomorrow, at 1:00 pm, Catholic Action International proposes to the believers of the various confessions and religions to gather in prayer, dedicating 'One Minute for Peace'. We welcome this invitation, praying for the end of wars in the world and especially for the beloved and martyred Ukraine. To all my blessing".