St Thérèse's significance in Goa is underscored by the grandeur with which her Feast Day is celebrated, even when it falls on a Sunday
St Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, is has gained prominence for her ‘Little Way’ spirituality and her profound understanding of the vocation of love. Her life and writings beautifully illustrate the concept that her vocation was centred on love.
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus holds a prominent place in where she shares the title of Patroness of Missions with St Francis Xavier. The Carmelite Monastery Church in Margao is dedicated to her honour, and the Carmelites also have the Lar de Santa Terezinha orphanage in Margao.
While there are no specific churches in Goa dedicated to her, her presence is felt through Convents and Schools in Raia, Santo Estevam and Vasco, which bear her name. Additionally, she serves as the Patroness of Philosophy students at the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, and the Pilar Sisters have a Formation House in Navelim dedicated to her.
Besides, St Thérèse is a patroness of Vaureaddeancho Ixtt, Konkani weekly run by the Pilar Fathers.
St Thérèse's significance in Goa is underscored by the grandeur with which her Feast Day is celebrated, even when it falls on a Sunday. Among the devout in Goa, a cherished memory is the operetta ‘Bhagevont Thérèse Pormollit Sallok’ presented by the Carmelites in 1997 to commemorate her proclamation as a Doctor of the Church by the Universal Church. This production, authored by Fr Ave Maria Afonso, beautifully portrayed the life and mission of St Thérèse.
In the current year, we mark the 150th anniversary of her birth and the 100th anniversary of her Beatification. Looking ahead, we eagerly await the centenary of her Canonisation, a milestone we will joyfully celebrate in 2025.
She believed in approaching God with childlike simplicity and trust. She saw herself as a little child in the arms of her Heavenly Father, emphasising that love is not complicated or demanding but rather simple and pure. Her spirituality revolves around what she called "The Little Way." She believed that even small, everyday actions done with great love could lead to holiness.
St Thérèse understood that love is the essence of the Christian faith. She expressed this love through her acts of kindness, charity, and devotion to God. Her love for Jesus was so profound that she described her heart as being consumed by love, and her motto was, "My vocation is love." She practiced a self-emptying love, seeking to forget herself entirely for the sake of God and others.
She saw everything in life as an opportunity to offer love to God. Her "Little Way" involved making a continuous offering of her life to God, even the smallest and most mundane aspects of it. Her vocation of love is accessible to everyone. She believed that all people, regardless of their abilities or circumstances, could follow her path of love and become saints through their simple acts of love and devotion.
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus' vocation is often described as the "Vocation of Love" because her life and teachings emphasised the importance of love as the central aspect of her relationship with God and her mission to bring souls to Him.
(The writer is a member of the Karnataka-Goa Province of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites based at Divine Springs Retreat Centre, Xellim, Canacona)