I was an Anglican priest the summer I met St Therese of Lisieux. I was living in England and had three months free between jobs, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was going to hitch hike and stay in monasteries and religious houses on the way.
GREENVILLE,SC (Catholic Online) - I was an Anglican priest the summer I met St Therese of Lisieux. I was living in England and had three months free between jobs, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was going to hitch hike and stay in monasteries and religious houses on the way.
The first leg of my journey took me across the English channel to Normandy. As divine providence would have it, I missed the ferry to the more Eastern port of St Malo and headed instead for the French port of Le Havre. Once off the boat, I headed for the Benedictine monastery of Bec Hellouin. Bec is over a thousand years old, and is famous for providing the church in England with a couple of archbishops over the years. After staying with the monks at Bec I headed for the town of Lisieux.
As a convert from Evangelical American religion, I didn't know much about the little saint of Lisieux. I had learned that Catholics call her the 'little flower' and that she died young of a terrible disease. What little I did know I didn't like. Her syrupy sweet spirituality didn't seem very manly to me. I wasn't sure what 'little flowers' had to do with anything and thought all the little girl talk about 'Dear papa in heaven' and 'being God's good little girl' were a bit much.
When I got to Lisieux things didn't improve much. I made my way up to the imposing basilica dedicated to the saint on the hill outside the town. It looked big and ugly from the outside, and the road leading up to the basilica was crowded with souvenir shops with rosaries hanging from the awnings, postcards and images of the saint (and every other saint imaginable) pictures of Mary and Jesus with wide eyes, and holy water bottles shaped like Mary with crowns that unscrewed. To a tasteful young Anglican priest it was all pretty tacky, and I thought the French ought to know better.
I enquired at the guest house called The Hermitage next to Therese's Carmelite convent. A neat little nun showed me up to my room, and after a simple French supper I wandered around the town for a short time. It was a balmy June evening, and the sun was setting as I went back to The Hermitage and settled down for the night. I opened the window and before long I was fast asleep.
At three in the morning I woke up and was immediately aware of something happening. The moon was shining through the window and a light breeze wafted the curtains. I sat up in bed, not alarmed, but alert-more alert and awake than one should be if woken up in the small hours of the morning. There seemed to be a presence in the room, and it felt like a feminine presence-a very benign and loving and powerful feminine presence. I sensed that it was Therese. I sat there for at least thirty minutes in silence experiencing a dynamic inner calm I can only describe as a quiet bliss. Then the experience passed and I went back to sleep-but not before I decided that I would get over my prejudice and have a more serious meeting with the young lady called Therese of Lisieux.
The next day I went to her childhood home and bought an English translation of her Story of a Soul. I discovered that her sentimental spirituality had a purpose. It was a reminder of the gospel lesson that all of us, if we were to enter the kingdom, had to become as little children. I also learned that this little flower was no shrinking violet. She was tough, tougher than I had ever thought it necessary to be in my own feeble attempts at being a Christian. Then I learned that she had a vocation to pray for priests, and I said, "Therese, I know you pray for priests. I am only an Anglican priest, and not a full member of your family, but I hope you will pray for me too as I embark on this pilgrimage."
The pilgrimage took me through the most historic and wonderful parts of France and Italy, and then through Greece to the Holy Lands. Along the way I stayed in Benedictine monasteries and got into the rhythm of prayer and the life of the monks with whom I stayed. All summer I also felt the presence and prayers of the little saint of Lisieux.
Since then, my life's pilgrimage has taken me places I never imagined. Eight years after my encounter in Lisieux I left the Anglican ministry to become a Catholic. Twelve years after that I was ordained as a Catholic priest. I am convinced that the prayer I said all those years ago in Lisieux was answered more amazingly than I ever could have imagined. Who would have guessed that her prayers would not only help me to make my way into the Catholic Church, but that I (a married man with four children) would also be able to be ordained as a Catholic priest.
My interest in Therese led me to write a book called St Benedict and St Therese-the Little Rule and the Little Way. The book has become a favorite among followers of both St Benedict and St Therese, and with the election of a pope called Benedict there is an upsurge of interest in both St Benedict and St Therese. This interest continues to grow because both saints have so much to say to ordinary people who are struggling to live lives of holiness and service to God.
Fr Dwight Longenecker is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Contact him, browse his books and check out his blog at www.dwightlongencker.com
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
On Thursday Pope Francis celebrated St. Agnes' feast day in the Vatican by continuing the centuries-old tradition of blessing two lambs in her honor. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Traditionally, the lambs blessed on January 21 are under a year old and their first ... continue reading
By Jennifer Hartline
St. Therese helps me understand: "the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the ... continue reading
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
I was an Anglican priest the summer I met St Therese of Lisieux. I was living in England and had three months free between jobs, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was going to hitch hike and stay in monasteries and religious houses on the way. ... continue reading
By F. K. Bartels
The Little Flower of Jesus sacrificed her life for love of souls. She saw the magnitude of her Beloved's love for them. She offered herself for the building up of the Church, the People of God and the Mystical Body of Christ. That is truly a ... continue reading
By Youngsun Jun
Though I am not strong enough to hold the suffering souls in my arms and carry them home, I can do one thing: I can pray for the deliverance of the souls who are in the darkness. I can request help from the angels for them. I can make a 911 call for them. So again, I ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us! Saint Junipero Serra, your missionary zeal brought the light of Christ to millions. You endured so many hardships, and labored so much that your work resonates today in the hearts of hundreds of millions of Catholics. Saint Serra, I ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith A Fournier
Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith A Fournier
On July 15th in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the life, holiness, work and death of a great Bishop and Doctor named Bonaventure. He was born in 1218, became a Franciscan Friar in 1243, and died in 1274. A friend ... continue reading
By Justin Soutar
During his visit to the United States this coming September, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the heroic 'Apostle of California.' Once that happens, the Golden State will have its own patron saint and the Church will have another great missionary role ... continue reading
By Alex Basile
Every carpenter must practice patience. We can learn important lessons from the wood shop in Nazareth from the humble Saint Joseph. I have always been a "do it yourself" type of guy thanks to my father. My dad is always a steady presence during my home-improvement ... continue reading