Monday 7 March 2022

The Message of St Therese of Lisieux - Vernon Johnson - CTS Christian Shrines Series

The Message of St Therese of Lisieux  
CTS Christian Shrines Series
Vernon Johnson
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860820137
eISBN 9781784692551
CTS Booklet D331

Over the last few years, I have read over 250 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have greatly enjoyed many of the books in the Christian Shrines Series.  The only other book by Mgr Johnson to date is also in this series. I have a university degree in Religious Studies with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought I would have loved to have had books from this series, and many from the CTS catalogue to use as a resource during my schooling. The books from the Christian Shrines series come in a few flavours, some for going on pilgrimage, some as overviews of the message, and like this one, on the recipient of the message. But back to this specific volume on the Message of St Therese of Lisieux. 

There are a couple of different descriptions of this volume is:

“What is the message of St Thérèse of Lisieux and what does it for the Church today? In this renowned classic, discover the Little Way of St Thérèse and understand how it powerfully reveals the relevance of the Gospel for everyday living.

Deep in the trenches of the First World War, thousands of soldiers carried a picture of the same young woman. This woman was St Thérèse of Lisieux, the French Carmelite nun who died aged 24. What was the message of this woman who so enchanted these soldiers? Is her message still important for the Church today? In this renowned classic, discover the Little Way of St Thérèse and understand how it powerfully reveals the relevance of the Gospel for everyday living.”

The older description is:

“The Little Way of an unknown Carmelite nun who became a Doctor of the Church. Thérèse died a painful and lingering death of tuberculosis in her French convent in the Normandy town of Lisieux in 1897, at only twenty-four years of age. Thousands of soldiers in the First World War trenches carried her picture to their own deaths. This ebook sets out what called her 'Little Way' and powerfully reveals the relevance of the Gospel to everyday living.”

This booklet is an excellent volume in a wonderful series and I highly recommend it. The chapters in the booklet are:

The Message of St Thérèse of Lisieux
The Little Way of Spiritual Childhood
    The Witness of the Saint
    The Witness of Almighty God
    The Witness of the Church
    The Scriptural Foundation
The Nature of the Little Way
    Love towards The Father
    Love towards one’s neighbour
    Love through Suffering
The Crown of the Little Way
    The Victim of Love
St Thérèse’s Act of Oblation

I do not know when the original version by Mgr Vernon Johnson was published, 1997 is listed as the publishing date for the edition of the physical book. The eBook was released in 2017, and the book was rebranded in 2019. This volume begins with these words:

“Has St Thérèse a particular message to the world? If so, what is it? To many Catholics this question has never arisen. To them St Thérèse is a Saint canonised by the Catholic Church and, as such, is proposed in some sense as a model for the faithful; but as to what that model exactly is they are by no means clear. Some again hold her in great devotion as the Saint from whom they have received great personal help and many favours which they describe as ‘roses’. To others again this very devotion is distasteful; they dislike this talk of roses, it savours of the sentimental and picturesque, and they dislike sentiment, especially where religion is concerned: they prefer their own saints: St Thérèse is not for them, and they leave it at that.”

And later:

“These, one and all, miss the whole reason why God has raised up this particular Saint in our own particular time. What then is the message of St Thérèse? It is true that she said she would scatter roses on the earth, but she did not say that that was her Mission. What then is her Mission? Her Mission is to teach to the faithful her ‘Little Way of Spiritual Childhood’.”

And the next section in the volume states:

“Towards the end of her last illness she said to her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus: ‘I feel that my Mission is soon to begin, my Mission to teach souls my little way’. Her sister asked her: ‘What is the little way that you would teach to souls?’ ‘It is The Way of Spiritual Childhood, the way of trust and absolute self-surrender’. Was this sense of a Mission to teach her Little Way to souls a mere delusion, just an expression of pride? Or was it the prophecy of a divine Mission? Pope Benedict XV gives the answer: ‘Since Sister Thérèse had been humble all her life, it could only have been by a divine inspiration that she spoke in her last moments in an apparently contrary sense’.”

This is one of at least three books that Mgr Vernon Johnson wrote about this saint. His deep devotion is evident. But also his clear that in this volume he is writing not a hagiography but looking at the message and teachings she has left to us. It is an excellent volume in a wonderful series. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Christian Shrines series click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisi
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James

CTS Books and Booklets n the life and spirituality of St Thérèse:
Thérèse of Lisieux - On the visit of her relics to Great Britain (Do 810)
Thérèse, teacher of Prayer, by Bro Craig (D 693)
Louis and Zélie Martin, Parents of Thérèse of Lisieux, by Paulinus Redmond (B 709)

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