St. Thérèse entered the life of the Brazilian priest Msgr. Pedro Teixeira Cavalcante early in his childhood. When he was four years old, he randomly chose a book and asked his family members to sit down and read it to him. The book was none other than Story of a Soul, by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
From then on, his admiration for and interest in the story of the French Carmelite only increased. In fact, Msgr. Pedro has written several works about the saint’s life and message. But there are two particularly interesting and providential events in his path of getting to know St. Thérèse.
A special gift from St. Thérèse
When he was studying in the seminary in Rome, the young Brazilian decided to go on a pilgrimage with his classmates to Lisieux in France. There he visited Les Buissonets (a home where the Martin family lived) and visited the Carmel where St. Therese lived from the ages of 14 to 24.
During the visit, the seminarian personally met Céline Martin, St. Therese’s sister. That same day, while having dinner in the men’s residence next to the Carmel, he unexpectedly received an envelope. Pedro was very surprised to discover that Céline had sent it, and that it contained a lock of St. Thérèse’s hair.
“It was blond hair, beautiful. Do you think I slept that night? I was so delighted, so happy! Imagine, I had St. Thérèse’s hair, given to me by Céline! I read so many things about Céline and Thérèse … I was so happy, so satisfied that I don’t even know if I continued eating dinner,” said Msgr. Pedro in a video published in the profile Flowers of Carmel on Facebook.
A message for St. Thérèse in Heaven
The young seminarian’s devotion to St. Thérèse grew even more when he received a grace he attributes to her.
When the date for the ordination of the class in which he studied was approaching, Teixeira was informed that he could not be ordained because he was not yet 24 years old – the age required by Canon Law for ordination. He was disconcerted by this information. Just at that time, he learned that Céline, St. Thérèse’s sister, was very ill.
The seminarian then decided to send her a letter. “I knew that she was very sick, so I wrote: ‘Céline, if you die in these days, before March 14, speak to Thérèse so that she can arrange for me to be ordained on March 14,’” explained the monsignor, recognizing his audacity in sending such a letter to a sick person.
After the letter was sent and before the date of the ordination, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments granted the seminarian permission to be ordained along with his seminary classmates.
Some time after this great news, Pedro learned that Céline had died one day before he received the cardinal’s permission to be ordained, on February 25, 1959. He then had no doubt: “Céline gave my message to Thérèse,” the young man declared.
“The Gospel in its most human form”
Yes, Pedro was ordained with his classmates, and today, at the age of 87, he can look back on 64 years of priesthood. Msgr. Pedro serves in the Divine Holy Spirit Parish in the Brazilian coastal city of Maceió. A fervent devotee of St. Thérèse and a great researcher on the message left by the “Little Flower,” he has written books on the Carmelite saint.
And what moves so much devotion? Msgr. Pedro answers: “St. Thérèse is the Gospel in the most human, simple, and beautiful form. It’s the path of Jesus with Mary to the Father, in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit … I’m a priest, fruit of God’s mercy, with the intercession of Mary Most Holy and St. Thérèse.”