St. Therese of Lisieux
and the Apostleship of Prayer
On October 15, 1885, less than three months before her thirteenth birthday, Therese became a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, an association born of the missionary desires of young Jesuits in a French seminary on December 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier, in 1844. Apostles of Prayer offer their lives in solidarity with the Eucharist to draw hearts to the Heart of Jesus. They pray for the special intentions the Pope entrusts to them, and every month a volunteer delivered a leaflet with these intentions to Les Buissonnets. Today Therese and Francis Xavier are co-patrons of the Apostleship of Prayer. Visit the Apostleship's United States and international Web sites.
To see a photo of Therese's enrollment in the Apostleship, please watch this three-minute video with Fr. James Kubicki, director of the Apostleship of Prayer in the United States:
To read a news story reporting that St. Therese was named co-patron of the Apostleship of Prayer, click here.
Below is the letter of Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, of March 25, 2004 communicating that St. Therese was named co-patron of the Apostleship of Prayer with St. Francis Xavier.
DIREZIONE GENERALE DELL'APOSTOLATO DELLA PREGHIERA
BORGO S.SPIRITO 4 - C.P.6139 - 00195 ROMA - PRATI (ITALIA)
To the members, diocesan directors and national secretaries
of the Apostleship of Prayer
and to all who live by its spirit
I have the pleasure and honour to communicate to you the news that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, through the faculties granted to it by the Supreme Pontiff Pope John-Paul II, has acceded to my request and confirms Saint Thérèseof the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church, the second patron before God of the members of the Apostleship of Prayer, with all the rights and privileges that derive from it according to the rubrics, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Apostleship of Prayer could not have wished for a better sign of the Church's esteem on the occasion of its 160th anniversary.
My request was prompted by the discovery, in the archives of the Carmel at Lisieux of the certificate of the enrollment in the Apostleship of Prayer of Mlle. ThérèseMartin on October 15, 1885.
It was already known that Saint Thérèse knew of the Apostleship of Prayer, for in her last autobiographical notes (June-July 1897) she wrote: "I want to be a daughter of the Church as our holy Mother Saint Teresa was and to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions which I know embrace the whole universe. This is the general purpose of my life. . . . this his how I am spiritually united to the apostles whom Jesus has given me as brothers,” but since it is now known that she became a member of the Apostleship of Prayer at the age of twelve, she has become “a Saint of the Apostleship of Prayer.”
As a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, the young Thérèse undoubtedly prayed for the intentions which were recommended each month to the members of this association. A note attached to the certificate mentions that the leaflet presenting these intentions was brought each month by a volunteer to the Buissonnets, the home of Thérèse. Now these are precisely the general and missionary intentions of the Holy Father that are at the centre of the attention of the millions of the adherents of the Apostleship of Prayer throughout the world and of the many others who, without being enrolled, make their daily offering and put their confidence in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As Patron, Saint Thérèse will surely intercede for our universal communion of prayer that it may contribute effectively to the building up of the Church and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The expression of Saint Thérèse: "I want to be a daughter of the Church . . . . and to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions which I know embrace the whole universe. This is the general purpose of my life. . . ." expresses in a few words what the spiritual Charter says about the aim of the Apostleship of Prayer, namely "to help Christians unite their prayers and their lives to the prayer and mission of the universal Church, of which the Holy Father's international and missionary intentions remind us each year.”
Thérèse approached the devotion to the Sacred Heart in her own way. In a letter addressed to her sister Celine, she wrote: "I do not look on the Sacred Heart as others do" ("surrounded by thorns with a large cross at the centre," according to her sister). She preferred to relate to the risen Christ in heart to heart converse, until she could one day contemplate him face to face.
In her poem To the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she does not focus on the symbol of a heart pierced with a lance. She goes directly to the essential; the loving person of Jesus, his deep sentiments, the love that fills his heart.
This intimate knowledge of the Lord and of the sentiments of his heart corresponds perfectly to the way followed by the Apostleship of Prayer in recent times presenting the devotion to the Heart of Jesus as a spirituality rooted in the Scriptures and putting the accent, as Thérèse did, on the loving person of Jesus. Indeed, all devotion to the heart of Jesus has no other aim than to make us more like him, trusting in the Father and attentive to others as he was himself.
Saint Thérèse’s vision cannot but appeal to Christians of this new millennium and be an encouragement for you to continue the way to sanctity in daily life that you have undertaken.
Fraternally yours in the Lord,
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Director General of the Apostleship of Prayer
Rome, March 25, 2004
Feast of the Annunciation