The Church has always been shaped by great women, especially saints, and perhaps most especially by those whom no one knows. Today, the perception in the media is mostly different. Women are coming out loud and demanding so-called “rights”, as if one could ask such a thing from God. It is clear here that the understanding of God and the Church is in trouble. And this, in turn, is shown by the women who “made” him the farthest in the Church: the saints, among whom were especially the doctors of the Church.
None of them thought of claiming anything contrary to faith. And everyone knows that Catarina von Siena, Teresa von Avila, or Hildegard vom Bingen have never been so confused. However, they are not suitable as icons of the feminist movement of our time. They are simply too Catholic for that. Unfortunately, the great message they are to send to the women of the Church is being missed by those who firmly insist on the women’s priesthood. In the case of Saint Therese de Lisieux (d. 1897), Doctor of the Church, this is very unfortunate.
At the age of fifteen, Thérèse followed her calling early on and entered Carmel. Contrary to what she had expected, a dark time passed by her: the feeling that Jesus was hiding from her, though she could not wait to enter the monastery out of her love for him. This has nothing to do with the still-popular cliché of the comic saint; Especially when you learn that Therese not only suffered spiritual torment, but quickly became seriously ill. Inner suffering merged with physical suffering. Despite this, she never lost her faith and never lost her confidence. The secret she had was that she knew how to be like a child before God and to depend on Him as a child. Therese heroically walked this “little way” – and became a great saint in the process; Not because she was concerned with herself and her desires, but with Jesus.
The church today is far from that way, at least as far as the “congregational churches” and their feminist “followers” are concerned. Thérèse can be very close to them, or at least correct their mistakes, especially when it comes to demanding women’s service, which we know the Church can never afford. Unusually for a nun of her time, Thérèse writes candidly in her autobiography that she felt a calling to be a missionary, a martyr, and also a priestess: “I discovered in myself a calling to be a priest. With what love, Jesus, I will put you in my hands if you will come down from heaven according to my word. With what love will I give you souls!”
What Therese describes here is her sincere feeling, the longing that other women feel today. However, Therese never makes what she desires, does not place it above the church community and does not demand it for herself either. No man or woman can claim the priesthood for himself, whatever his desires are. Therese knows and accepts it, but also without denying or distorting her feelings. she writes: “But unfortunately, with all my desire to become a priest, I admire the humility of St. Francis of Assisi and I envy him for it, and find in myself the call to imitate him, not accepting the sublime dignity of the priesthood.”
Therese knows the contradictions she stands in. She also knows that she has no right to “accept” or not to priesthood, but she ignores this contradiction and does not resort to pseudo-theological fantasies designed to remedy all this. She remains “Catholic” and thus, like Teresa Avila, remains “the daughter of the Church”. However, this alone is not enough here. Therese remained a Catholic because, as in all her life’s adversities, she was still close to Jesus. She entrusts herself to him, and she knows she is safe with him, especially when it comes to her calls. This is precisely why Jesus himself is able to show her what her true calling is. she writes: “Jesus, my love, my life… How do these opposites reconcile? How are the desires of my poor little soul fulfilled?”
This complete commitment to Jesus is what is sorely lacking in contemporary feminist “theology”. Therese walks a different path, she walks the path of truth and life, and because she walks this path, which is Jesus himself, Jesus also gave her the deepest knowledge of her calling. Therese wrote: “As I was thinking about it, my desires made me endure a real ordeal. In search of an answer, I opened the Epistles of St. Paul. My eyes fell upon the twelfth. and thirteenth. A chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians … I read in the first that not everyone can be apostles, prophets, teachers, etc… that the church is made up of different parts and the eye cannot be the hand at the same time..(…) Without letting myself get discouraged, I continued reading, and this passage made me feel at ease: Find the best gifts (…) Then the Apostle explains how all these most perfect gifts are nothing without love… That love is the eminent path that leads reliably to God. I have found peace at last. By contemplating the mystical body of the Church, I have not found myself in Which of its members is like St. Paul describes, or rather, I wanted to find myself in every person … Selfless love gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body made up of different members, then this body is not lacking most of the body Absolutely necessity and nobility. I realized that the Church has a heart and that the heart burns with love. I understood that only love makes the members of the Church work, and If love dies, the apostles will no longer proclaim the gospel and the martyrs refuse to shed their blood… I understood that love includes all vocations and love is all, it includes all times and all places… In a word, it is eternal! …Then I cried out in my overwhelming joy: O Jesus, my love … at last I found my calling. My calling is love! Yes, I found my place, my place in the church, and this place you, my God, gave me … In the heart of the Church, Mother, I will be loving … So I will be everything … So my dream will come true. “
Of course, one can object that this is a very personal experience for Therese, and for this reason alone she does not fit as a model for women in the Church, especially in the matter of the priesthood. But what is considered a role model here is Therese’s approach. Therese does not begin with herself, but only with Jesus. So she remained with him and his church which, she says herself, is none other than his mystical body. As a result, there are no anti-church narratives in Thérèse, but rather a deeper penetration into that truth which is Christ Himself. The key to this is denied by feminist “theology”: it is “unselfish love,” the love that does not listen to itself and its desires, but listens to Jesus, to the word of the Bible, to Him, the Living One. Word, is the same again.
Therese deeply understood that the priesthood, as John Paul II said, is “a gift and a mystery” and that for this reason alone it remains outside one’s desires and thoughts. Christ himself gives it to whomever he wills, and no one can claim it for himself. On the other hand, revolutionary upheavals and imaginative constructs show one thing above all, how far away those who proclaim the women’s priesthood are. This also applies to those who support them in this matter, especially the bishops and priests.
Where confusion reigns, the spirit of contradiction and rebellion, the Holy Spirit never reigns. It did not deal with aggregate deviations. However, part of God’s work in his church is that wherever confusion arises, he lets his true spirit work at the same time, the spirit that awakens the saints and prophets. Most of the time this happens quietly and unnoticed, always starting out on “small paths”, just like Therese von Lisieux. 125 years ago, on September 30, she went to heaven at just 24 years old. It is worth rediscovering her writing today.
Author d. Joachim Himmerl, is a priest of the Diocese of Vienna and a first teacher.
Note: Opinion articles like this reflect only the opinions of the guest authors, not those of the CNA Deutsch editorial team.
You may also be interested in:
Reflections on Catholic Ethical Teachings from Joy and Hope to the Present Day – Current Series by Thorsten Paprutney https://t.co/juce3Bd0Wh
– CNA German (CNAdeutsch) August 25 2022