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Archbishop Nichols’s Thérèse homily now on video

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The Diocese of Westminster has just posted a video of Archbishop Vincent Nichols’s powerful homily before the departure of St Therese’s relics from the Cathedral last week.

He said:

Yet Thérèse teaches us the ancient Christian message: without love all our efforts are little more than a ‘gong booming or a symbol clashing’.

She had her own way of expressing this: ‘Finally I understood that love comprises all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places… in a word that it is Eternal.’ Then she cried out, ‘My vocation is love…Yes, I have found my place in the Church… in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love.’

As often as we listen to these words, well-known and inspiring as they are, we need to remember that they were written in October 1896, nine months before she died. They were written, then, at a time of anguished pain and suffering. They are not the words of a young romantic, day-dreaming of an ideal future. They are born of abandonment to God, in darkness and desolation. They are, therefore, powerful testimony to the grace of God at work in our weakness, and not to the power of a self-centred romantic imagination. They are words to shape our mission today.

These words speak directly to us today when, as a society, we struggle to understand and respond to the experience of terminal illness and approaching death. In the shortened perspectives of many, such moments are pointless and actually rob life of all its meaning. Therefore some seek the right to exercise the only solution that is within their own power: that of killing themselves and having others free to assist them to do so.

St Thérèse lived through those same moments. She too experienced suicidal thoughts of ending the pain and the overpowering sense of futility. She warned the sister who cared for her that when she had patients who were ‘a prey to violent pains’ she must not ‘leave them any medicines that are poisonous.’ She added, ‘I assure you it needs only a second when one suffers intensely to lose one’s reason. Then one would easily poison oneself.’

So Thérèse too lived the tension that many experience today, the tension between her individual, autonomous choice, on the one hand, and, on the other, the bonds which bound her to her community, to her family, to those who cared for her, to life. She argues, as we do today, that reason, in the context of our relationships, must acknowledge life as a gift and not an individual possession and, at the same time, embrace death when it comes.

Full text here.

Photo: St Thérèse’s relics are carried out of Westminster Cathedral (Catholicrelics.co.uk)

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 19, 2009 at 1:57 pm

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