By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In his homily marking the end of the visit of the relics of St. Therese to England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster reflected on the saint’s long and painful death, when she was tempted to despair and even suicide, which makes her witness to love all the more powerful an antidote for the prevailing trend toward physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.
According to a report by Zenit News, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, spoke about the relevance of St. Therese’s message on the last day her relics would grace his nation.
During his homily at the farewell Mass, he quoted one of the most famous passages in the Little Flower’s autobiography, where she declares, “Finally I understood that love comprises all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places . . . My vocation is love!”
These words were written nine months before her death, “at a time of anguished pain and suffering,” the Archbishop said.
“They are born of abandonment to God, in darkness and desolation. They are, therefore, powerful testimony to the grace of God at work in our weakness, and not to the power of a self-centered romantic imagination.”
These words can shape our mission today, the Archbishop said, because “as a society, we struggle to understand and respond to the experience of terminal illness and approaching death.”
Some consider these moments to be pointless to some people, who “seek the right to exercise the only solution that is within their own power: that of killing themselves and having others free to assist them to do so.”
This is why we should look to St. Therese, because she “lived through those same moments,” also experiencing “suicidal thoughts of ending the pain and the overpowering sense of futility.”
In fact, he pointed out, “She warned the sister who cared for her that when she had patients who were ‘a prey to violent pains’ she must not ‘leave them any medicines that are poisonous.’ She added, ‘I assure you it needs only a second when one suffers intensely to lose one’s reason. Then one would easily poison oneself.'”
The prelate affirmed that despite this tension, St. Thérèse “argues, as we do today, that reason, in the context of our relationships, must acknowledge life as a gift and not an individual possession and, at the same time, embrace death when it comes.”
St. Therese’s relics have been traveling through England and Wales since Sept. 16 and were visited by more than a quarter of a million people.
The Archbishop called the visit a “time of conversion” that has included “wonderful expressions of faith and love.”
“This outpouring of faith has baffled many people,” he said, which “secular commentators have not been able to make sense of.”
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