Story and Photos By Beth Donze
Even when St. Thérèse of Lisieux was grappling with despair and illness, she always managed to lift herself up by telling herself that she was God’s beloved child.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond told St. Thérèse Academy students, assembled for Mass on their saintly patroness’ Oct. 1 feast day, that all of us share in this happy reality: We are God’s own sons and daughters, loved for all eternity and without condition.
This simple but profound knowledge nurtured within St. Thérèse “a deep desire to respond in love” to her creator, Archbishop Aymond told the youngsters.
“She always said, ‘I’m a child of God.’ She said that her entire life,” the archbishop said, noting that the day’s Gospel was fitting: Jesus tells his disciples that only those who come to the Father as a child may enter the kingdom of heaven.
“St. Thérèse has a very simple message, boys and girls: You are a child of God,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Every day he claims you as his beloved daughter (or) his beloved son. On the good days and on the bad days; on the days when we’re happy and on the days when we’re crying and sick. He’s always there. He never, ever leaves you!”
The archbishop noted how St. Thérèse, like every human being, had times of great joy, coupled with some tough times.
“Her mom died when she was 5 years old. She also, as a child, had a lot of sickness. She went through a period of depression,” Archbishop Aymond said.
St. Thérèse, born in France in 1873, also admitted to a tendency toward impatience and moodiness. Although disappointed when her dreams of becoming a foreign missionary didn’t pan out, she would come to humbly accept her vocation as a cloistered Carmelite nun devoted to prayer and performing small works with great love.
On her deathbed suffering from tuberculosis at age 24, St. Thérèse would continue to state, “I am a child of God,” and excitedly looked forward to being in the embrace of her heavenly father.
Archbishop Aymond told the St. Thérèse students that they had a special calling to try to live like their school’s patroness.
“When you get up in the morning, even before you have your feet on the floor, God has talked to you and what does he say to you? ‘You belong to me!’” he said. “It is God who created you – he breathed his life into you even before you were born; he calls you by name, even before you were born; he gave you gifts; he loves you.”
Helping all of us to become more like St. Thérèse is the Penitential Rite at the beginning of every Mass, in which the faithful are able to “stand before our loving and faithful God (to) acknowledge our weakness and our sins,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Aymond thanked teachers and parents for modeling God’s enduring and unconditional love in the way they treat their students and children, respectively.
At the end of Mass, celebrated on campus inside Our Lady of Divine Providence Church, Archbishop Aymond blessed a basket of St. Thérèse medals – a gift to students and faculty from the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools.
The archbishop concluded his campus visit by blessing every classroom and office inside the newly opened school.