With her distinctive doctrine and unmistakable style, Thérèse appears as an authentic teacher of faith and the Christian life. In her writings, as in the sayings of the Holy Fathers, is found that life-giving presence of Catholic tradition whose riches, as the Second Vatican Council again says, “are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and prayer” (Dei Verbum, n. 8).
If considered in its literary genre, corresponding to her education and culture, and if evaluated according to the particular circumstances of her era, the doctrine of Thérèse of Lisieux appears in providential harmony with the Church’s most authentic tradition, both for its confession of the Catholic faith and for its promotion of the most genuine spiritual life, presented to all the faithful in a living, accessible language.
She has made the Gospel shine appealingly in our time; she had the mission of making the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, known and loved; she helped to heal souls of the rigours and fears of Jansenism, which tended to stress God’s justice rather than his divine mercy. In God’s mercy she contemplated and adored all the divine perfections, because “even his justice (and perhaps even more so than the other perfections) seems to me clothed in love” (Ms A, 83v·). Thus she became a living icon of that God who, according to the Church’s prayer, “shows his almighty power in his mercy and forgiveness” (cf. Roman Missal, Opening prayer, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time).
St John Paul II writes of St Thérèse, “In God’s mercy she contemplated and adored all the divine perfections, because ‘even his justice (and perhaps even more so than the other perfections) seems to me clothed in love’.” #DivineMercyTweet
Even though Thérèse does not have a true and proper doctrinal corpus, nevertheless a particular radiance of doctrine shines forth from her writings which, as if by a charism of the Holy Spirit, grasp the very heart of the message of Revelation in a fresh and original vision, presenting a teaching of eminent quality.
The core of her message is actually the mystery itself of God-Love, of the Triune God, infinitely perfect in himself. If genuine Christian spiritual experience should conform to the revealed truths in which God communicates himself and the mystery of his will (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 2), it must be said that Thérèse experienced divine revelation, going so far as to contemplate the fundamental truths of our faith united in the mystery of Trinitarian life. At the summit, as the source and goal, is the merciful love of the three Divine Persons, as she expresses it, especially in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. At the root, on the subject’s part, is the experience of being the Father’s adoptive children in Jesus; this is the most authentic meaning of spiritual childhood, that is, the experience of divine filiation, under the movement of the Holy Spirit. At the root again, and standing before us, is our neighbour, others, for whose salvation we must collaborate with and in Jesus, with the same merciful love as his.
Saint John Paul II
Divini Amoris Scientia, 8
Apostolic Letter proclaiming St Thérèse a Doctor of the Church
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