The feast day could not have clashed with world events more starkly.
Yesterday, Catholics celebrated the memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897), the mystical nun who lived just several years at the Carmel convent in Lisieux, France, before her death at age 24.
Her complete devotion to love in her heart and her daily life led the Church not only to declare her a saint, but also to honor her as a Doctor of the Church, joining the ranks of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and as Universal Patron of the Missions, though she never left the convent.
St. Therese’s paramount message is to live every moment of life in God’s total and all-consuming love. That virtue encompasses what the young saint called the “spiritual childhood” of being totally dependent, trusting and obedient to our Lord as His child whom He loves and who loves Him.
“The only good is to love God with all one’s heart and to be here below poor in spirit,” St. Therese wrote, highlighting the virtues of total love for and reliance on God in life.
Politics after Christianity
Our modern age isn’t big on loving, trusting or even believing the Almighty. Rather, against want and fear, man relies on money and power. And it shows in the news.
Hogging media worldwide was the first presidential debate between Democratic Party candidate, former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton, and her Republican rival, billionaire developer and reality TV host Donald Trump.
The Atlantic, a leading US public affairs journal, observed that neither candidate espoused the foundational American values based on Judeo-Christian tenets:
“Until now, the political debate has generally been framed by a set of shared principles, even if they’ve often been applied to contrary ends. [Founding US President George] Washington told his fellow citizens that they ‘have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles’; [Republican Abraham] Lincoln observed that they ‘read the same Bible and pray to the same God’ even as ‘each invokes His aid against the other’; and [incumbent Democrat President Barack]Obama reminded them that they ‘worship an awesome God’ in states both red and blue [the Republican and Democratic colors].”
Not so last week: “On Monday night, Clinton limited herself to passing references to the black church and faith communities as civic institutions…. Trump, on the other hand, didn’t just abandon the rhetoric of American religion; he repudiated it. He spoke sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the majestic plural, but always to explain what he himself intended to do, and never to summon his fellow Americans to join him in the work.”
Thus, The Atlantic called the Clinton-Trump faceoff as “America’s first post-Christian debate … devoid of the framework that has long held the nation together.” It summed up: “Civil religion died on Monday night.”
In guns we trust
If belief, trust and love of the Divine was absent at America’s presidential jousts, it is even more so in the global arena.
Sure, mass murderers of Islamic State claim to serve Allah in their war of conquest in Iraq and Syria, and their call for terrorist attacks across the globe. But their resort to brutality anathema to God’s love and mercy only demonstrates that IS is anything but God-fearing, -trusting, and -loving.
Nor are the earth’s paramount powers putting much trust in heaven. In war-torn Syria, America and Russia are trading recriminations while escalating forces and even attacks, with the US bombing a Syrian government base, purportedly by mistake, then Russia and Syria allegedly attacking a UN relief convoy.
War warnings are also up in Europe, where Moscow opposes the deployment of forces by the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization in NATO members bordering Russia. But Washington deems it necessary to protect the alliance after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
In Asia, meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that America will “sharpen our military edge” in the region to counter aggressive Chinese actions and other concerns, like North Korean nuclear ambitions.
Washington’s explicit goal, Sec. Carter made clear, was to ensure that the US “remains the region’s strongest military and security partner of choice.”
No prizes for guessing that Beijing would respond to that not by intensifying love and trust in the Creator, but building up its own capacity for destruction.
Serving mammon, not God
For market watchers, the top headline-grabber was the slump in Deutsche Bank’s stock price after reports of a US Justice Department’s move to fine Germany’s largest financial institution $14 billion for anomalies in selling mortgaged-backed bonds in 2005-07, before those securities crashed in the US financial crisis.
The stock rebounded on Friday after later news that Deutsche Bank was negotiating a much lower penalty of $5.4 billion. Still, threats of financial armageddon remain.
World markets and financial institutions worry over a third eruption after the US debacle of 2007-08 and the subsuquent euro zone debt woes, in which Greece and other European nations needed drastic bailouts to prevent wholesale loan defaults.
This time, the feared debt timebomb may explode in developing nations, where corporate and country borrowings had soared amid rock-bottom global interest rates after the US crisis — and now threaten to sour as lending costs and the dollar rise.
In all these money quakes and others like them in decades past, the common denominator is greed: the quest for higher returns, quick profits, and ever-escalating bottom lines.
In short, mammon was god.
And in our time of post-Christian politics, arms race, and the profit motive, St. Therese of the Child Jesus is remembered for her life of loving God in everything.
“Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ,” she said. “On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.”
Or as we see in the news, even worse.