My Dear Parish Family:
Today we gather as a parish community, to celebrate the greatness of our patroness, St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. She lived the gospel that we have just heard proclaim: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We gather to celebrate Therese’s feast day as we mark the 95th Anniversary of the Church of the Little Flower. We pray for our founding parishioners at this Mass who asked the bishop of St. Augustine at the time to send them a priest and erect a parish next to St. Joseph Academy which had opened its doors a year earlier. That academy would eventually be called St. Theresa School when our founding pastor, Monsignor Comber acquired it for the parish during the Great Depression. This parish has a long and storied history, but instead of listing our accomplishments, which are many, I prefer we focus on where we are right now and to look to our patroness and to follow her “Little Way.”
One can see God’s sense of humor as we gather in one of the most magnificent churches in the Archdiocese of Miami that honors a saint who embraced her meekness and lowliness. Yet so many have found comfort within these walls and under this majestic dome. For in the vastness of this church, we recognize, like Therese, that we are like little children before our omnipotent God. And this is how we, as Catholics and parishioners of Little Flower should always approach the Lord: as his children. Recognizing our lowliness like our Blessed Mother did when she sang the Magnificat.
Therese’s “little way” is simple. “It is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute surrender.” It’s being willing to make small sacrifices to God. A smile here to a person in need or perhaps to a person we don’t necessary like. These are the sacrifices that Therese teaches us: “Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” However, we live in a society where the words sacrifice and surrender are anathema. Yet they are so important to our spiritual life because they draw us closer to the heart of our Lord.
Confronted with her physical limitations and being confined to her convent Therese concluded in her writings: “There is only one thing to do here below: to offer Our Lord the flowers of little sacrifices.” We have had to make so many sacrifices during the last year and half, but each one of them could profit us for eternal life. Even the smallest can gain for us a weight of eternal glory. “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
We must be a humble and selfless parish like our patroness: seeing in our brother and sister someone who is greater than us. For this is the sure path to the Kingdom of Heaven. So as we start journeying towards our 100th Anniversary in 5 years, I don’t wish to offer up grand plans for the parish and big projects. The time will come for that. Instead on this day when we kickoff the countdown to our centennial celebration, I pray that we can master this “Little Way.” As I wrote in the bulletin today: “we need not to do great things to achieve holiness, for it is in the little acts of kindness and charity that we start conquering souls for Christ that was so important to this young saint.”
And that must be our attitude when we encounter a brother and sister: “Are we conquering that soul for Christ? Are they seeing the living Christ in me?” We must immerse ourselves in the wisdom and depth of the Little Way. For this, we must understand God the way Therese did. She knew she was but a little flower in God’s Garden: small, feeble, helpless, and totally dependent on Him. During the School Mass celebrating our patroness, the children sang a remarkable musical piece called “Therese’s Canticle of Love” that helps us understand how this doctor of the Church understood God and this is taken from her poetry (I underscored and added some notes for emphasis:
How great and tender is our God who has smiled on the lowly…
(and here she’s talking about you. Not about someone else.)
The God of mercy waits for you as a mother her child.
Oh come to the living water, fear not your weakness,
forever trusting in God’s merciful love.
In peace I will come before you with empty hands,
Relying solely on your merciful love.
Through the veil your face appears,
beauty shrouded bathed in tears.
Bread of sinners I will share, rose unpetalled everywhere.
Therese promised in her writings: “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.” For 95 years we have been the beneficiaries of this endless shower of roses. And now we ask this young saint to intercede for us as we seek to perfect this Little Way so that we may achieve spiritual greatness by being the least among our brethren.
Therese concludes this Canticle of Love by proclaiming:
Transformed in love’s consuming fire, lifted up in glory,
her fragrance filling all the earth, drawing us after her.
Until in eternity we join in one chorus,
forever singing of God’s merciful love.
Canticle of love, song of love, this eternal day
I will sing of your love.
May we, as a parish community, always sing of this merciful love, and may we model our lives after our Little Flower, St. Therese who longed to spend her heaven by doing good on earth. May we be led by her example and spend our time here on earth doing the works of heaven.
God bless you all,