Pope Francis prayed with relic of St. Thérèse of Lisieux before surgery
VATICAN CITY — One of Pope Francis’ last gestures before undergoing abdominal surgery on Wednesday was to pray before a relic of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. A relic of the French Carmelite nun, also known as St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was present on the platform in front of St. Peter’s Basilica during the pope’s weekly general audience June 7.
Before beginning the audience, Pope Francis venerated the relics of St. Thérèse in a moment of silent prayer. He also placed a single, white rose on the table in front of the reliquary.
Pope Francis was taken to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for abdominal surgery under general anesthesia at the end of the morning audience, shortly after 11 a.m. Rome time, the Vatican said.
Relics of St. Thérèse’s parents, SS. Louis and Zélie Guérin Martin, were also present at the meeting with the public. The relics of all three saints will visit different churches in Rome through June 16.
Pope Francis said Wednesday he intends to publish an apostolic letter on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “patroness of the missions,” to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth.
“She was a Carmelite nun who lived her life according to the way of littleness and weakness: She defined herself as ‘a small grain of sand,’” he said in St. Peter’s Square.
“Having poor health, she died at the age of only 24,” he added. “But though her body was sickly, her heart was vibrant, missionary.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux was born on Jan. 2, 1873, in Alençon, France. Her mother died when she was 4, leaving her father and older sisters to raise her. She received papal permission to enter the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15, where she lived until her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24.
She was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 and is the patron saint of missions.
Pope Francis reflected on the saint’s life as part of a series of lessons on evangelical zeal.
“She is patroness of the missions, but she was never sent on mission,” he explained in his catechesis. “She recounts in her ‘diary’ that her desire was that of being 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.”
St. Thérèse did this, he said, by becoming a spiritual sister to several missionaries, whom she accompanied through her prayers, letters, and sacrifices from within the monastery walls.
“Without being visible, she interceded for the missions, like an engine that, although hidden, gives a vehicle the power to move forward,” the pope said.
“Missionaries, in fact — of whom Thérèse is patroness — are not only those who travel long distances, learn new languages, do good works, and are good at proclamation,” he added. “No, a missionary is anyone who lives as an instrument of God’s love where they are.”