The Little Flower — St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Fourth in a Series by Albert H. Dolan, O. Carm.

Her Love for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Carmelite Saints

Were I Queen of Heaven and Thou Therese, I would wish to be Therese that I might see Thee Queen of Heaven (Words of St. Therese to Our Lady).

The Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16, is one of the greatest feasts in the Carmelite calendar. It was therefore one of the greatest feasts in the convent life of the Little Flower. It is called the "Scapular Feast" because on that day the Church celebrates Mary's bestowal upon the world of the Brown Scapular which forms part of the holy habit of all Carmelites. The story of that Scapular—which the Little Flower as a girl, before she was permitted to enter Carmel, so ardently longed to wear, which she so often kissed, in which she lived and in which she died—has been told so often that we need only sketch it today.

In the thirteenth century, the Carmelite Order, the oldest of all the Orders and the first to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, was being persecuted in Europe. (Some ecclesiastics doubted the ancient origin of the Carmelite Order, and thus considered it to be in contravention of the Lateran Council [1215], which had forbidden the institution of new Orders.) St. Simon Stock, the General of the Order, had long prayed to the Blessed Virgin for some sign of Her approval of the Order dedicated to Her. Finally the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon and holding out the Brown Scapular said to him: "This is the privilege I give to you and to all Carmelites: Whosoever shall die wearing this Scapular shall never suffer the pains of Hell." Catholics ever since, in spite of scoffers, trust confidently that the Blessed Virgin will keep Her promise. Catholics know that there is no power in the cloth itself, but they do know that it is Mary’s badge, Mary’s uniform given by Herself to men, and that Mary, according to Her promise, would never allow anyone to lose his soul who has sufficient trust in Her, sufficient faith in Her, sufficient love for Her to wear Her uniform day and night at all times and under all circumstances until death calls.

That Scapular has been worn, ever since it was given, by all devout clients of the Blessed Virgin. It was worn by the Little Flower; and she loved it well, loved it as Mary's badge, as Mary's uniform. It is sufficient when speaking of the Little Flower's devotion to Mary, and Mary's love for the Little Flower, to recall again that Mary smiled on her at the very dawn of her life; that of all the Orders, the Little Flower chose to enter the Carmelite Order, the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Just let us recall those beautiful and poetic words of the Little Flower which so nicely express her burning love of the Queen of Heaven: "Were I Queen of Heaven and Thou Therese, I would wish to be Therese that I might see Thee Queen of Heaven."

A portion of the love of the Little Flower for our Blessed Mother may be experienced, and is experienced, I think, by every devout Catholic. There comes a time in every devout Catholic's life when his devotion to the Blessed Virgin suddenly develops into a very real, very personal, very close intimacy with the Blessed Virgin never before experienced. Up to this point he has said daily prayers to Mary, has had frequent recourse to Her, especially in emergencies, but those prayers had about them a certain formality and coldness. They were motivated more by duty than by love. But suddenly and unaccountably, the Queen of Heaven seems to come very close to him. He realizes, with a depth of conviction never before experienced, that She is in very truth his Mother; that She has for him all a mother's care and solicitude and love. He finds himself thinking of Her not as one far removed from him, away off on Her throne in Heaven, but as one near to him, as a companion; he begins to speak to Her more often, as one would to a companion. His faith in Her develops to such an extent that he knows, although he has been given no new evidence, that he is indeed a child of Mary and She is his Mother, and that he is being guarded in a very special way by Her. He begins to depend more absolutely upon Her. He relies less and less upon his own strength and more and more upon Hers. He can almost feel the protecting mantle of Mary about him and thus a new feeling of strength and security takes possession of him; he does not dread the future so much now, because somehow his strength feels the strength of two. It is as if the veil of the other world had been lifted, as if he could see his Blessed Mother walking with him on the road of life clasping his hand in Hers, and he knows now that there never will be any danger that he will stray to the left or to the right with Her as his guide and protector.

With this new conviction there comes a great gratitude and a great love for the Blessed Virgin; his devotion to Her becomes an intense and loving personal attachment of a son for a mother, and every morning he greets Her and recommends himself to Her, almost as soon as he has opened his eyes. Throughout the day there are many loving ejaculations to Her, and in the evening there is always a deeply affectionate prayer of thanksgiving to Her that another day has been spent for God and in God's friendship. Thus his devotion to Her brings both a new beauty and a new security into his life and he wonders why his devotion to Mary was not as personal and intimate before.

Our Lady of Mt. CarmelThat is a description of what devotion to Mary may become to the average Catholic. What then must have been the Little Flower’s devotion to Mary? How much more intimate and beautiful and loving and trustful must have been her devotion to Mary? The answer to these questions must be left to your imagination.

Let us rather ask what happiness devotion to Mary has brought to the Little Flower in Heaven. We know that the Little Flower's greatest joy in Heaven is union with God, the Beatific Vision, the love of our Lord; but just second to that happiness, union with Mary is her greatest joy. Oh, what must it mean to the Little Flower to see and be with Mary to whose Order she once belonged, whose Habit she wore, whose features she so often tried to picture! What a joy it must be to that ardent soul of the Little Flower to enjoy the perpetual companionship of the Queen of Heaven! What love our Blessed Mother must be bestowing upon the Little Flower! No fond earthly mother ever hung over her firstborn with the tenderness like unto that with which Mary bends in Heaven to Therese. The smile Mary gave to the Little Flower when Therese was a girl is only a faint representation of the smile which our Blessed Lady continually bestows upon the Little Flower now in Heaven. The Little Flower is continually basking, I am sure, in the smile of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; she is ever near the throne of the Queen, persuading the Queen to go with her whenever, in her childlikeness, she goes to visit the nurseries of Heaven—where the Little Flower in her littleness and our Blessed Mother in Her Queenly graciousness are ever at home among the little ones of Heaven.

I wonder what the Little Flower did in Heaven on the first Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel after her canonization? We can imagine Our Lady sitting upon Her throne in Heaven, at the right hand of Our Lord on His throne, and we can imagine the Little Flower sitting beside them, sitting at Their feet, kissing over and over Our Lady's Brown Scapular, which Mary has let fall lovingly over the Little Flower's shoulder. All three of these Heavenly Personages are gazing down upon the ceremonies taking place in every Carmelite convent and monastery and church the world over. We can imagine the Little Flower in an ecstasy of happiness, clapping her hands in joy, like the child she always was and is, as she saw the thousands celebrating the Scapular Feast—the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; as she saw the thousands gathering here, there, and everywhere, all wearing Mary's badge—the Scapular—all expressing their love for Mary and Mary's livery. We can imagine Our Lord stooping to say to the Little Flower, "Since this is the first Feast of Our Lady since your canonization, ask Me what you will and I will grant it to you." We can imagine St. Therese hesitating and then reaching up to whisper to Mary, who stoops to listen. Our Lady nods Her head in approval at the words of the Little Flower, who then turns to Our Lord to say, "O my dear Lord, this is not my Feast, but the Feast of Our Lady, and so this is the favor I will ask—a favor which the Queen approves—a favor not for me but for Her: Let all those thousands who visit my Shrines today in all countries learn this day to love Mary more and to value Her Scapular more highly."

That is exactly the favor which the Little Flower has already conferred upon us, upon all her devotees, upon all who have made her Novena; she has brought us closer to Mary. See how she has kept her promise of letting fall her roses, roses of greater devotion to Mary, roses of greater knowledge of and greater love of the Blessed Virgin. Many have learned during Novenas what they did not know before—the close connection between the Little Flower and the Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and having gained this knowledge, have resolved to imitate the Little Flower more closely in her love of Mary and in her devotion to the Brown Scapular of Mary. All this is the Little Flower's work. Every resolution, every Sacrament devoutly received during her Novena, is her work. What a marvelous fulfillment of her promise: "My work begins after my death; I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth."

The Little Flower is very near to Mary on this Feast; therefore let us ask her for many of her roses—but for this rose especially—greater care never to be without the Scapular and greater devotion to Mary; a devotion constant and ardent enough to lead us one day to Heaven where the Little Flower today is enjoying the loving smile of Heaven’s Queen—Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

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