I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger again as some of the guys share about “Patron Saints” this week. But I’m not the only guest blogger this time! Zach and I will be covering the Catholic perspective and Chad will be joined by Shea coving the Eastern Orthodox perspective.
But I’m not going to stop there! I decided that I’m going to do a couple more blogs on some of the Saints that I’ve considered as part of my ‘posse’ over the past couple of years. But this one will be focused on one of my two Confirmation Saints since that is the assignment handed to be by the ecumenical boys. Stay tuned for my follow-up Saint posse blogs!
The “Confirmation” in Confirmation Saints
First of all, what in the world is confirmation? And why do you choose a Confirmation Saint? Well, it actually has something to do with Baptism.
I remember when I was a Protestant one of my beefs with the Catholic Church was infant Baptism. In my tradition, Baptism was your public profession of Faith. That moment when you show the world, or at least the group of people who happened to be at Church that day, that you are sold out on Jesus. It needs to be a free-will choice. So infant Baptism seemed somehow…rude. I mean, the kid can’t speak for him/herself. They don’t know what they believe. And who’s to say that they aren’t just going to walk away when they get older? Well, in reality that last question can be applied to anyone who makes a free-will choice to be baptized as well. I’ve seen many in the Protestant Church who have been baptized only to walk away from their Faith. But at least they knew what they were getting into in the first place, right? Well, as much as one can really. What married couple truly knows what they’re getting themselves into when they make their vows? Hahaha! The same can be true for Baptism in most Protestant Churches…and Confirmation in the Catholic Church.
Confirmation is sort of the book-end to Baptism and usually happens in Junior High or High School. (Unless like me you’re a grown adult who suddenly decides to become Catholic.) In the Catholic Church, Baptism is the front door to Salvation. The act of Baptism allows the one baptized to begin to enter into their journey of Salvation. Confirmation in the Catholic Church is when that person, at the right age to make a free-will choice, chooses to officially continue that journey. Or, in Protestant speak, Confirmation is when they make their Faith their own. It’s no longer the Faith of their parents, but it is the Faith they choose for themselves.
And part of that choice is to choose a new name! And so, you go about finding a Saint that you are inspired by, have a particular connection to, or wish to emulate in order to adopt their name as your own.
My confirmation name is Mary Thérèse. I cheated and picked two names. Normally a Priest might stop one from doing this, but Fr. Boyle didn’t and I’m glad for it! I just couldn’t decide between the two. I won’t get into why I chose Mary because I wrote about that in the blog I wrote about her. Instead I’ll focus on St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face or The Little Flower, was a French Carmelite Nun who entered the Convent at the unconventional age of 15 and died from Tuberculosis just 9 years later at the age of 24 in 1897. When it was discovered that she was nearing the end of her life she was asked by her superiors to write a book about her life, which has since been published and is called “The Story of a Soul”.
To be fair, I have to admit that I didn’t care for St. Thérèse when I first learned about her. I asked my Catholic friend Eric if there were any Saints he knew of that would be a good match for me. This is back when I was Protestant and had no intention of becoming Catholic. I just thought the Saints had cool lives and wanted to learn more about them. He suggested St. Thérèse, but I thought she sounded wimpy, especially with a nickname like “The little flower”. Blah. Boring. I wanted him to suggest someone like St. Catherine of Siena – who was bold enough to call out the Pope or St. Theresa of Avila who wrote extensively on suffering and was also a bit more passionate and vocal with admonishing those in the Church who were doing wrong.
Nope. He stuck to his guns and suggested St. Thérèse. So I ignored his suggestion. Maturity is one of my strong points.
Sometime later, when I started to become hesitantly interested in becoming Catholic, I asked my Catholic friend CJ who he might suggest I look into. He immediately ran and grabbed his copy of “The Story of a Soul” and suggested St. Thérèse, but the way he described her peaked my interest. She was a bit stubborn, saw the world simply, emphasized the importance of love in all things, and was unconventional. So far so good! So I started reading.
Talk about a girl after my own heart! St. Thérèse was so in love with Jesus that all she wanted to do was to enter the Convent and spend her days married to the love of her life, but she wasn’t allowed to do that until she was at least 16 years old. However, she was so set in her desire to enter that she took a trip to Rome with her father and sister and even approached the Pope about it during a public audience. She had been specifically told NOT to speak to him and not only did she speak to him, she tearfully collapsed into his lap and asked him to allow her to enter the convent early. Hahahaha! I remember reading that story and thinking, “Girl…I would have done the same thing!!!” The Bishop who had the final say ended up granting her permission to enter a year early.
While in the convent, Thérèse found some of the older Nuns difficult to love, but instead of letting that be what it was she decided instead to see loving them as sort of a challenge and set out to love them even more. She would talk often about finding little acts of love to do for others, even if they were a sacrifice for her. No – especially if they were a sacrifice for her. For her, every loving act was not only for the person directly involved, but each act was also for Jesus – the love of her life.
“Another time I was working in the laundry, and the Sister opposite, while washing handkerchiefs, repeatedly splashed me with dirty water. My first impulse was to draw back and wipe my face, to show the offender I should be glad if she would behave more quietly; but the next minute I thought how foolish it was to refuse the treasures God offered me so generously, and I refrained from betraying my annoyance. On the contrary, I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water, that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I resolved to come as often as I could to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.” -St. Thérèse of Lisieux
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
-St. Thérèse of Lisieux
I think the moment I knew that she was my girl was when I read what she wrote about her discontent with being ‘just a Sister’ given all the love and passion she had in her heart for Jesus. I’m going to copy the whole passage because I love the way it builds. I wish I could have written this myself because it is the same desire of my heart:
“To be your Spouse, O Jesus, to be a Carmelite, by my union with you to be the mother of souls, should content me… yet it does not… Without doubt, these three priviliges are indeed my vocation: Carmelite, spouse, and mother. And yet I feel in myself other vocations—I feel myself called to be a soldier, priest, apostle, doctor of the church, martyr. Finally, I feel the need, the desire to perform all the most heroic deeds for you, Jesus… I feel in my soul the courage of a crusader, of a soldier for the Church, and I wish to die on the field of battle in defense of the Church…
I feel in me the vocation of a priest! With what love, O Jesus, would I bear you in my hands, when at the sound of my words you came down from heaven! With what love would I give you to souls! But alas, just as much as I desire to be a priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, and feel the call to imitate him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood….
Dreaming of the tortures in which Christians are to share at the time of the Antichrist, I feel my heart thrill, and I would like these tortures to be kept for me… Jesus, Jesus, if I wanted to write all my desires, I would have to take your Book of Life, where the deeds of your saints are recorded: all these deeds I would like to accomplish for you….
At prayer these desires made me suffer a true martydom. I opened the Epistles of St. Paul to seek some relief. The 12th and 13th chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians fell before my eyes. I read, in the first, that not all can be apostles, prophets, and doctors, etc., that the Church is composed of different members, and that the eye cannot also be at the same time the hand.
The answer was clear, but it did not satisfy my desires, it did not give me peace…. Without being discouraged I continued my reading, and this phrase comforted me: “Earnestly desire the more perfect gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). And the Apostle explains how all gifts, even the most perfect, are nothing without Love… that charity is the excellent way that leads surely to God. At last I had found rest…. Considering the mystical Body of the Church, I had not recognized myself in any of the members described by St. Paul, or rather, I wanted to recognize myself in all… Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church has a body composed of different members, the noblest and most necessary of all the members would not be lacking to her. I understood that the Church has a heart, and that this heart burns with Love. I understood that Love alone makes its members act, that if this Love were to be extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood… I understood that Love embraces all vocations, that Love is all things, that it embraces all times and all places… in a word, that it is eternal!
Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: “O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation, my vocation is Love!… Yes, I have found my place in the Church, and it is you, O my God, who have given me this place… in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!…. Thus I shall be all things: thus my dream shall be realized!!!” -St. Thérèse of Lisieux
When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I used to say (and sometimes still do) that if I could find a job that just paid me to love people, then I’d do that. So, you can imagine how I felt to read that this Catholic Nun from over 100 years ago pretty much had the same desire.
Up until I read St. Thérèse’s book I still held the belief that Catholics didn’t love Jesus, their Faith wasn’t genuine, they blindly went through the motions, and prayed affectionless prayers. And while for some Catholics, that may very well be the case, I’ve learned that looks can be deceiving. Many Catholics love Jesus, have a genuine Faith, are engaged in each and every motion, and affectionately pray memorized prayers. And St. Thérèse more than anyone helped me to see that. Their faith looked much different than what I was used to but it wasn’t any less genuine than my own.
So when I eventually decided to end my Protest and become Catholic, I had to choose my Patron Saint. I knew that Mary was someone I wanted to emulate given my history of admiring her as well as what I’d been learning from her life of Sacrifice. But St. Thérèse had the same overwhelming Love for Jesus that I did – and so I felt I could relate to her more than any other Saint I’d learned about. So, like I said, I’m thankful that Father Boyle allowed me to take both names. And I hope that as I continue on this journey I can live up to the Sacrifice and Love represented in the name Mary Thérèse.