St. Thérèse is Pope Francis’ favorite saint. He even said so in an interview. “Are you saying this because some of us are French?” one of his interviewers asked him. “Not at all,” exclaimed the Pope. “Go to my room and you will see that there are many things about little Thérèse.”
In fact, Francis has books on the young French Carmelite nun, as well as relics, and even a pious image of Thérèse dressed as Joan of Arc. He often refers to her in his letters … And soon, an apostolic letter will once again demonstrate his devotion to the French saint.
Paying tribute to “the saint of trust,” the Pope expressed his desire that Thérèse of the Child Jesus “help us to trust and to work for the missions.” After announcing an apostolic letter about the saint in June, the Argentine Pontiff has set October 15 as the date for the publication of the document, within the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Carmelite nun (January 2, 1873) and the centenary of her beatification (April 29, 1923). He announced this date at the beginning of October.
Thérèse’s missionary zeal
Why does little Therese fascinate him so much? The answer lies at least in part in Thérèse‘s missionary zeal, which Francis wants to present as a model for all Christians. “She is the patroness of the missions, even though she never went on mission,” he said on June 7, 2023, during the general audience in the presence of Thérèse’s relics. “Her heart was vibrant, it was missionary. She recounts in her ‘diary’ that her desire was to be a missionary, and that she wanted to be one not just for a few years, but for the rest of her life, even until the end of the world.”
Christians can benefit by following Thérèse’s witness in her missionary vocation. For the Pope, missionaries are not just “those who travel long distances, learn new languages, do good works, and are good at proclamation.” They are rather “anyone who lives as an instrument of God’s love where they are. Missionaries are those who do everything so that, through their witness, their prayer, their intercession, Jesus might pass by.”
“Faith is born by attraction. One does not become Christian because they are forced by someone, but because they have been touched by love,” the Pontiff said in the conclusion of the Angelus message.
Last June, Francis recalled Thérèse’s daily goal: “To make people love Jesus” (Letter to Céline, October 15, 1889), and to intercede for others to love him.