"Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway" has the honor to introduce, as its first "guest columnist," Brother Joseph Schmidt, FSC. You can read about Brother Joe's life and about his books about St. Therese below, but I want to say how happy I am to introduce him to you and how grateful I am to him for writing a series of guest columns for us. Although, like me, Brother Joe is a native of Philadelphia, he is now working in Kenya, and I look forward to reading about how Therese is received in Kenya, where he is now working. Please use the "comments" feature to share your comments and questions. Welcome, Brother Joe!
Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC is a lecturer, spiritual director, and pastoral counselor. For many years he was on the staff of the international sabbatical center, Sangre de Cristo, Santa Fe, NM, USA. During the last years he has focused his interest on St. Thérèse of Lisieux. He has written three books, all focused on Thérèse and her spirituality, published by Word Among Us Press.
Everything is Grace: the Life and Way of Thérèse of Lisieux prompts readers to walk with Thérèse through her life as she understands her spirituality unfolding in her experiences over the course of her life. It is a more systematic biography of the saint, bringing together in one book for the first time many details from various sources. This book was published in 2007 and is in its sixth printing. It has received very favorable reviews. It is also available in electronic format.
Praying Our Experiences explores an approach to prayer based on Thérèse's way of personal prayer in which she reflected on her own experiences in a prayerful way. Although the text of the book does not contain many direct references to Thérèse's writings, it is filled with her spirit. This book is also available in electronic format.
Praying With Thérèse of Lisieux follows Thérèse’s life and spirituality as that developed over her life. This book includes large sections of quotations from the writings of Thérèse. Each chapter focuses on a theme from the life of Therese. Reflective questions are provided at the end of each chapter that invite readers to reminisce about their own experiences, using their memories as the content of their prayer, just as Thérèse did.
Brother Joe's column:
In the course of giving retreats in various cities of the U.S. over the last several years. I have often searched out chapels, churches and prayer rooms of retreat houses looking for images of Thérèse. It would surprise me to find her image in the most unlikely places of devotion. Usually I would notice a stained glass window or a picture or a statue of Thérèse. Sometimes these were in areas that were hidden and out of the way.
When I came to Kenya three years ago, I also continued the practice of looking for images of Thérèse in churches and shrines. The image of Thérèse is not present in many of the churches or chapels of religious communities that I have had the opportunity to visit in this African Country. But there is a statue of Thérèse in the Cathedral in Nairobi, the capital city. It is a very simple plastic statue on the side altar, relatively hidden away and opposite the more elaborate side altar given over to the images of Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
What has struck me is that Thérèse is present in the Cathedral, but inconspicuously present, as she was during her life in her Carmelite community. And what has also struck me is that the need to know Thérèse and her spirituality is more widespread and just as important in Kenya as in the U.S.
In future blog entries I will talk more about what aspects of Thérèse's spirituality seem to be especially needed in the spiritual development of Kenya. I will also be sharing with you some of my own experiences of ministry in teaching and spiritual formation ministry here in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi.
In future blog entries I will also be guided by comments and questions that you might have as you share your interest in Thérèse in her role in the spiritual growth of the Church in Kenya and in the universal Church as well.
Brother Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC