Homily at the Canonization of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, by Pope Pius XI, 17 May 1925

Blessed be God and the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, and God of all consolation; who in the midst of the countless cares of our apostolic ministry, has granted Us the joy of inscribing as our first Saint in the calendar the Virgin who was also the first to be beatified by Us, at the beginning of our Pontificate. This maiden became a child in the order of grace, but her spirit of childhood was united to such greatness of soul that, in accordance with the promises of Christ, she merited to be glorified before the Church upon earth, as well as in the Heavenly Jerusalem.

We give thanks to God likewise for permitting Us, who hold the place of His Only Son, to repeat insistently today from this chair of Truth and during this solemn ceremony the salutary teaching of the Divine Master. When the disciples asked: “Who will be the greater in the Kingdom of Heave?” calling a child and setting him in their midst, He pronounced these memorable words: “Amen, I say to you, unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mat 18:2)

The new Saint Thérèse had learned thoroughly this teaching of the Gospels and had translated it into her daily life. Moreover she taught the way of spiritual childhood by word and example to the novices of her monastery. She set it forth clearly in all her writings, which have gone to the ends of the world, and which assuredly no one has read without being charmed thereby, or without reading them again and again with great pleasure and much profit. For this simple child, this flower that blossomed in the walled garden of Carmel, not content with adding to Thérèse the name of the “Child Jesus,” retraced in herself His living image, so that it may be said that whosoever honors Thérèse honors the Divine Model she reproduced.

Therefore We nurse the hope today of seeing springing up in the souls of the faithful of Christ a burning desire of leading a life of spiritual childhood. That spirit consists in thinking and acting, under the influence of virtue, as a child feels and acts in the natural order. Little children are not blinded by sin, or disturbed by the passions, and they enjoy in peace the possession of their innocence. Guiltless of malice or pretense, they speak and act as they think, so that they show themselves as they really are. Thus Thérèse appeared more angelic than human in her practice of truth and justice, endowed as she was with the simplicity of a child. The Maid of Lisieux had ever in memory the invitation and the promises of her Spouse: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to Me.” (Prov. 9:4) “You shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you; as one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you.” (Is. 64:12-13)

Conscious of her weakness she abandoned herself entirely to God, and leaning upon Him she labored to acquire – at the cost of every sacrifice, and of an utter yet joyous abdication of her own will — the perfection she arrived at. We need not be surprised if in Thérèse was accomplished the word of Christ: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mat 18:4) In her catechism lessons she drank in the pure doctrine of Faith, from the golden book of The Imitation of Christ she learned asceticism, in the writings of Saint John of the Cross she found her mystical theology. Above all, she nourished heart and soul with the inspired Word of God on which she meditated assiduously, and the Spirit of Truth taught her what He hides as a rule from the wise and prudent and reveals to the humble. Indeed, God enriched her with a quite exceptional wisdom, so that she was enabled to trace out for others a sure way of salvation.

That superabundant share of divine light and grace enkindled in Thérèse so ardent a flame of love, that she lived by it alone, rising above all created things, till in the end it consumer her; so much so that shortly before her death she could candidly avow she had never given God anything but Love.

Evidently it was under the influence of that burning charity that the Maid of Lisieux took the resolution of doing all things for love of Jesus, with the sole object of pleasing Him, of consoling His Divine Heart, and of saving a multitude of souls who would love Him eternally. We have proof that on entering into Paradise she began at once, there also, this work among souls, when we see the mystical shower of roses which God permitted her, and still permits her to let fall upon earth, as she had ingenuously foretold.

Therefore do We desire earnestly that all the Faithful of Christ should render themselves worthy of partaking in the abundant profusion of graces resulting from the intercession of “little Thérèse.” But We desire much more earnestly that all the faithful should study her in order to copy her, becoming children themselves, since otherwise they cannot, according to the oracle of the Master, arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven.

If the way of spiritual childhood became general, who does not see how easily would be realized the reformation of human society which We set ourselves to accomplish at the commencement of our Pontificate, and more especially in the promulgation of this Jubilee.1 We, therefore, adopt as our own the prayer of the new Saint Thérèse with which she ends her invaluable autobiography: “O Jesus, we beseech Thee to cast Thy glance upon the vast number of little souls, and to choose in this world a legion of little victims worthy of Thy love.” Amen.