Thursday, October 01, 2009

Saint Thérèse--A Patroness for Mental Illness

Today is the feast of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.  I have hesitated writing this post because I feel like I could never do her justice.

Our parish has had a 3 day triduum of prayer for St. Thérèse.  Fr. Frederick Miller has come from Mt. St. Mary's seminary where he teaches theology, to preach the triduum on St. Thérèse.  He wrote his doctoral dissertation on her and has some amazing insights into her struggle with self-centeredness and her deep, deep love of Christ.

When Thérèse was alive on the earth, there was a tendancy to sentimentalize saints and things religious.  St. Thérèse is, even today, seen as a overly-sweet, flowery perfect-person who sailed easily into sanctity.  She was someone who was drawn to Christ from the beginnings of her time on earth, however, she was not someone who found sanctity easy. 

When Thérèse was born, she was taken to live in the home of her wet nurse, who became, for all intents and purposes, her mother.  At the age of one, she was (to her) inexplicably taken away from the only mother she had ever known to live with her biological family.  That was her first loss.

Three years later, her mother died of breast cancer.  Rather than allow herself to mourn, she immediately appointed her sister Pauline to be her substitute mother.  Five years later, Pauline entered the Carmalite convent, devastating Thérèse, who, no longer able to cope internally with so many losses, had a nervous breakdown.

She took to her bed for months. Her family was, needless to say, very worried about her and the doctors had told them that they could do nothing for her. 

What finally cured her was when her sisters brought a statue of Our Lady to the foot of her bed.  Thérèse saw Our Lady smile at her.  She was finally able to have the Mother that had been denied her.  It was the first of many graces in her life.

We have made St. Thérèse into a rather 1 dimensional saint, when, in fact, she was very complex.

I think we have another Heavenly advocate for those who suffer from mental illness.

Thérèse said, before she died, "I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth."

Let's ask her to help us in our daily struggles.

Note:  To purchase a CD of Fr. Miller's talk about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, go to Mount Media.  It is WELL worth purchasing! 


Marilena said...

agreed. and if anyone has not read story of a soul, i highly recommend that you do.

Dymphna said...

The priest last night recommended Story of a Soul as well.

TACParent said...

This is a great post. Very informative. It shows that struggles/hardships can serve to make us stronger.

Dymphna said...

Oh, absolutely! The priest told us that St. Therese received many "graces" from God--he said she couldn't make the changes by herself, no matter how desperately she wanted to. She could only do it with the help of God.

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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