the Carmel

Decree on the Heroicity of Virtues

Decree on the heroicity of the virtues followed by the Speech of Pope Benoit XV

Promulgation of the Decree on the Heroicity of Virtues

August 14, 1921
Translated from Latin.

for the Beatification and Canonization of the Venerable Servant of God,
Professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, at the Monastery of Lisieux.

ON THIS QUESTION: Is there certainty about the Heroicity of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards God and neighbor, as well as about the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance? and those which are attached to it, in the case and for the effect in question?
AMONG the Causes of Beatification and Canonization, brought today before the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and which have already succeeded or are on the verge of culminating, it would be difficult to prove one of them having excited, throughout the Christian world , as much sympathy, and continuing to acquire as much credit, as the very remarkable Cause in question here, that of the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, Sister THERESE DE L'ENFANT-
JESUS. Now this fact is absolutely disproportionate to the humble and modest character of this Cause, and, likewise, goes far beyond the very person of the Servant of God. It is, in fact, a young girl who lived for short years, hidden in a cloister, and was little known during her life. And one could not object to the Autobiography that Sister THERESE wrote on the order of her Prioress, because, in truth, the abundant fruits of salvation, admirable and universal, produced, each day more and more, by this reading, so endearing and so pleasant at the same time, go beyond such narrow and simply human limits. Moving the hearts of men, bending wills, correcting morals, kindling the fire of Charity and other similar effects, this obviously escapes all human action and finds a sufficient and plausible explanation only by virtue of the grace of God and of his present help. Now, provided that with serenity and without preconceived opinion, we pay attention to these facts and their consequences, it is impossible not to rise above the earthly, to look higher and adore the paternal designs of the Providence of God, always rich in mercy. Our proud times proclaim the empire of human reason over Faith; in the person of his faithful Servant, Sister THERESE, God offers them a new example, and confirms this precept of Eternal Wisdom: "If you do not change your life and if you do not become like little children, you will not enter not in the realm of two,”
To tell the truth, such is the characteristic of holiness to which Sister THERESE was called. That she answered with the greatest docility and the greatest zeal to this divine call, and that, by her life and her acts, she has, with a joyful, generous and persevering eagerness, followed to the end and fulfilled her particular vocation, all these points, certainly, which are the normal basis and the luminous proof of all heroic virtue, the postulators of the Cause, by the attentive and eager care of the Defense, have, with all their strength and with ardor, applied to establish them victoriously. To this end, they produced a quantity of solid evidence, the juridical result of a double investigation, that of the Holy See and that of the Ordinary. From then on, when they had previously established as a basis and confirmed with certainty this demonstration, by facts, of the Heroicity of the Virtues, these same Postulators - one had to expect it and it was a quite natural consequence - had no no difficulty in getting rid, under the presidency of the sagacious and expert Lawyer, of the difficulties which were opposed to them.
And the latter, basing himself on the facts, devoted all his care to deducing from them, by the method so serious and so effective of the syllogism, the arguments of weight and force necessary to attain his goal. He brought with him whoever weighs and meditates on facts and reasonings with the same calm and the same attention.
Of all the objections presented by the adversary, we put aside — and this without inconvenience — what is not within the jurisdiction of our Tribunal and in no way relates to its jurisdiction. But we retain only one, more particularly worthy of remark, because, if it could not have been refuted, it would tend to invalidate the foundation of the whole Cause. We want to talk about this illness from which Sister THERESE suffered and which would have exerted on her and on her acts such a prejudicial influence that her holiness would become suspect, to the point of strongly shaking what is the natural and necessary basis of heroic virtues.
Certainly, if we must admit that Sister THERESE, at the age of ten, was attacked by a disease whose character seemed mysterious to the doctors, we must, in the same way, consider as absolutely undeniable the fact that, by a prodigy of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, she was instantly and perfectly cured. For it is the same eyewitnesses and sworn witnesses who, after having pointed out this disease, teach us of its sudden and complete cure. Therefore, if when they establish the first fact, we must believe their words, we must not refuse to do so when they affirm the second: this is what the universal rule of law indicates and requires.
That if, nevertheless, we wanted to insist and say that the disease from which Sister THERESE suffered, at the age of ten, did not completely disappear and that traces of it remained, we certainly cannot forget, we can well still less to pass over in silence and neglect, an additional proof furnished by the Acts and confirmed by the best testimonies. Here it is: THERESE, especially after her entry into the cloister, showed absolutely nothing which, even remotely, reminded her of her former illness and had some connection with it. THERESE, in fact, was gentle, humble, patient, cheerful, amiable, of an even character; this is how her companions show and describe her. Now if, in view and to the admiration of all, Sister THERESE behaved in this way, while continuing to be subject to the evil she had previously experienced, this amounts to saying that her virtue grew all the more and became all the more remarkable. It would have needed, in fact, greater efforts and greater self-control to emerge victorious, and with advantage — as it is positively established that she emerged from it — from such a bitter struggle, caused by an inveterate evil, not completely disappeared, nor vanquished.
Thus in this Cause, of such great importance for Christian society, and which, responding to so many desires, gives so much joy, the inquiry undertaken into the Heroicity of the Virtues could be definitively terminated by the three discussions of 'use. After the two meetings, ante-preparatory and preparatory, the General Congregation was held on the second of this month, in the presence of our Most Holy Father Pope BENEDICT XV. There, the Most Reverend Cardinal Antoine Vico, Ponent of the Cause, proposed for Discussion the following Question: Is there certainty about the Heroicity of the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity for God and neighbour, and of the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance and those related thereto, with regard to the Servant of God, Sister THERESE DE L'ENFANT-JESUS, in the case and for the effect what is it?
All the members present, Reverend Cardinals and Father Consultors, expressed their opinion successively. With joy and attention, the Holy Father received and carefully examined their declarations, reserving however to judge in the last resort. At the same time, he reminded the Judges of the Cause, standing before him, of the need to pray earnestly to God in order to know his will. Having decided shortly afterwards to manifest his opinion, he chose this day of excellent omen, the XNUMXth Sunday after Pentecost, which happens to be the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After having therefore very religiously celebrated the Holy Mysteries, the Sovereign Pontiff summoned to the Vatican Palace the Most Reverend Cardinal Antoine Vico, Bishop of Porto and Saint Rufina, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and Ponent of the Cause, Reverend Father Ange Mariani , General Promoter of the Faith, and I, Secretary, the undersigned; then, in their presence, solemnly declared:
We are certain of the Heroicity of the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity for God and neighbour, and of the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Strength and Temperance and those related thereto. , with regard to the Venerable Servant of God, Sister THERESE DE L'ENFANT-JESUS, in the case and for the effect in question.

His Holiness ordered that this Decree be made public and recorded in the Acts of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, the nineteenth day before the calends of September (August 14) MCMXXI.
Cardinal Vico, Bishop of Porto and Sainte-Rufine, Prefect of the SC des Rites.
Alexandre VERDE, Secretary of the SCR


Speech by Pope Benedict XV

for the promulgation of the Decree on the Heroicity of the Virtues of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus
(Translated from Italian.)

In response to the address of thanks pronounced HE Mgr Lemonnier, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux.
ECHO has not yet extinguished the word with which, in proclaiming the heroism of the virtues of the Venerable Fournet, We said in this same room, a little over a month ago, that France seemed to aspire to a new name, with the enviable title of “Mother of the Saints” t And here we can today point out the scent of another flower blooming on French soil; here we must also recognize the heroic virtues of Sister THERESE DE L'ENFANT-JESUS, a professed nun of the Carmel of Lisieux. We rejoice at the confirmation that this present Decree gives to Our Word recalled just now. We rejoice in it for the honor that belongs to Catholic France, and for the legitimate satisfaction that the diocese experiences from it, where the garden in which this charming flower was formed and grew until its complete development is admired. But, to these causes of joy, suggested by the benevolence that We bear to the nation of Clovis and Saint Louis, is added a reason for particular complacency, inspired by the special character of the dominant virtue of Sister THERESE OF THE CHILD -JESUS. For there is no one who knows a little about the life of "little Thérèse" who does not unite his voice to the admirable choir proclaiming that life entirely characterized by the merits of spiritual childhood. Now, there lies the secret of holiness, not only for the French, but for all the faithful spread throughout the whole world. We therefore have reason to hope that the example of the new French heroine will increase the number of perfect Christians, not only among those of her nation, but also among all the sons of the Catholic Church.
For this purpose, a correct conception of spiritual childhood is essential. But today's Decree, which exalts a pious disciple of Carmel, arrived at the heroism of perfection by the practice of the virtues deriving from spiritual childhood, is it not itself intended to propagate the right design? Everyone thus sees how plausible the reason We have for extending Our joy beyond the reasons that rejoice Us with Our sons of France. Everyone sees how the faithful of all nations, ages, sexes and conditions must enter generously into this path by which Sister THERESE OF THE CHILD-JESUS ​​attained the heroism of virtue.
The harmony which reigns between the order of the senses and that of the spirits, makes it possible to base on the first the characteristics of spiritual childhood. Let us observe a child whose step is still uncertain, and who does not have the use of speech. If a child of his age pursues him, if another stronger one threatens him, or if the unexpected appearance of some animal frightens him, where does he run to take refuge? Where does he seek shelter? In the arms of his mother I... Welcomed by her and pressed to her bosom, he lays down all fear, and freely letting out a sigh of which his little lungs no longer seemed capable, he looks courageously at the object of his trouble and of his terror, provoking him even in combat, as if saying: “I am henceforth entrusted to a sure defender; in the arms of my mother, I abandon myself with full confidence, not only to be protected against any enemy assault, but also to be led where it best suits my physical development. Likewise, spiritual childhood is formed of trust in God and blind abandonment into his hands.
It is worth pointing out the qualities of this spiritual childhood, either in what it excludes or in what it presupposes. It excludes, in fact, the proud feeling of oneself, the presumption of attaining a supernatural end by human means, and the fallacious desire to be self-sufficient in the hour of peril and temptation. On the other hand, it presupposes a living faith in the existence of God, a practical homage to his power and his mercy, a confident recourse to the Providence of Him who grants us the grace to avoid all evil and to obtain all good. Thus the qualities of this spiritual childhood are admirable, whether one considers it from the negative point of view, or whether one studies it from the positive point of view, and therefore one understands that Our Lord Jesus Christ indicated as a necessary condition for gaining eternal life.
One day the Savior took a little child out of the crowd, and showing him to his disciples, he spoke these words: Truly I tell you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter in the realm of two. (Matt., xvm, 3.) Oh! the eloquent lesson which annihilates the error and the ambition of those who, considering the kingdom of Heaven as an earthly empire, dreamed of occupying the first places there or asked who would be the greatest there! Quis putas major est in regno coelorum? And, to better establish that the pre-eminence in the kingdom of Heaven would be the privilege of spiritual childhood, the Lord continues in these terms: Whoever therefore makes himself small like this child, he will be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. . Another day, some mothers presented their children to him to be touched, and when the disciples rejected them, Jesus was indignant, saying: Let the little ones come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of the two is at hand. them. And there again he concludes: Truly I tell you, he who does not receive the kingdom of two as a child will not enter it. — Quisquis non receperit regnum Dei velut parvulus, non intrabit in illud. (Mark, x, 15.)
It is important to note the force of this divine language, for it is not enough for the Son of God to affirm with a positive accent that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to the children: Talium est enim regnum cselorum, or that he who will be made small as a child will be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, but he also teaches in an explicit way the exclusion from his kingdom for those who have not become like children. Now, when a master presents a lesson in various forms, does he not want, by this multiplicity of forms, to signify that his lesson is particularly close to his heart? If he seeks so much to instill it in his disciples, it is because he wishes, by one or the other expression, to make them understand it more surely. It must be concluded that the divine Master expressly wants his disciples to see in spiritual childhood the necessary condition for obtaining eternal life.
Faced with the insistence and firmness of this teaching, it would seem impossible to find a soul who still neglects to follow the path of trust and abandonment; so much the more, We repeat, as the divine word, not only by generality of form, but by specific indication, declares this line of conduct obligatory, even for those who have lost childlike ingenuity. Some want to believe that the path of confidence and abandonment is reserved only for candid souls whom malice has not deprived of the graces of youth. They do not conceive of the possibility of spiritual childhood in those who have lost their first simplicity. But the . words of the divine Master: Nisi conversi fueritis et efficiamini sicut parvuli, do they not indicate the need for change and the need for work? Nisi conversi fueritis, here is indicated the change that the disciples of Jesus Christ must make in order to become children again. And who should become a child again, if not the one who is no longer one? Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli, here is now indicated the work, because we understand that a man must work to be and appear what he never was, or what he is no longer; but since the man cannot not have been a child, the words: Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli thus include the obligation to work to reconquer the gifts of childhood. It would be ridiculous to think of resuming the aspect and the weakness of childhood; but it is not contrary to reason to discover, in the Gospel text, the precept also addressed to men of mature age, to return to the practice of the virtues of spiritual childhood.
Over the centuries, this teaching was to find increased strength in the example of those who achieved the heroism of Christian perfection, precisely by the exercise of these virtues. The Holy Church always takes up these examples, in order to make better understand and follow more universally the commandment of the Master. Even today, she has no other aim when she proclaims the heroic Virtues of Sister THERESE OF THE CHILD-JESUS.
Although this happy Servant of God did not have to lavish on divine service for many years, nor arduous undertakings, she appeared, in less than five ages, full of merits. Disciple of a religious Order in which the glory of the doctors is even the prerogative of the weaker sex, she was however not nourished with strong studies; nevertheless, she was so knowledgeable by herself that she knew how to indicate to others the true way of salvation. But where does this copious harvest of merits come from, where did she gather so many ripe fruits? In the garden of spiritual childhood. Whence again this ample treasury of doctrine? Secrets that God reveals to children!
If the daughter of Louis-Stanislas Martin, who was born in Alençon on January 2, 1873, first showed the carelessness and cheerful vivacity of children of her age, all the witnesses agree in affirming that the misfortune whose she was struck in her fifth year by the loss of her mother, imprinted on her soul a great seriousness and an extraordinary maturity. Did not the Lord want to bring out in her this rapid change, this prompt work to adorn herself with the qualities of spiritual childhood, so that she could fully realize the divine teaching: Nisi conversi fueritis... nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli?
It is certain that, from then on, Thérèse gave proof in her words and in her actions of a judgment far superior to her age. Admirable was above all her promptness to refer to God all beauty contemplated in creatures, and to hope from Him alone the remedy for the ills deplored, either in her or in her neighbour. Oh ! the spontaneity of his surge towards God, especially at a time of anxiety and anguish! How well she reproduced the eagerness of a child to run and hide in his mother's arms, when he had the intuition that he could not be enough for himself! Thérèse's recourse to prayer was so frequent, her surrender to God so complete that she dared to put her life on earth in parallel with that of Heaven.
She loved her parents with a very pure love; however, she would have feared to deprive them of the life of Heaven, which she considered far above that of earth, by asking for a prolongation of their exile for them.
From all this, it is easy to assume that with the development of the years, the virtues of spiritual childhood cast deeper roots in the soul of “little Thérèse”. But this supposition was far surpassed by reality. We are easily convinced of this by the conduct of the child at the most decisive hour of his future. Her father, a true model of Christian parents, had resigned himself to seeing himself deprived of the assistance of his youngest daughter, and had not even concealed his noble pride in consecrating all his descendants to God in religious life. But so did not think her mother's brother, near whom Therese lived. Moreover, the Bishop of the diocese and the Superior of the monastery of Lisieux did not want to satisfy the teenager's wish to bury herself in Carmel at the age of 15. In vain, however, would one seek a complaint on the lips of Thérèse, either against the declaration of her uncle who refused to consent to her entry before the age of 17, or against the opposition of the Superior who postponed her until she was 21 years old. Oh ! as the dove must have groaned, impatient to hide in the sacred retreat of Carmel! But her groans, she exposed them to God alone. Even fearing that this opposition would come from him, she dared not contradict her parents and Superiors, who could take this silence as a sign of acquiescence, the only expression of her trusting abandonment to God.
Thérèse's attitude did not change in the face of the failure of her direct and courageous appeal to the Pope. Oh! the uselessness of this long journey, the marks of disapproval and perhaps even of contempt which were so widely inflicted on him! Wouldn't all these trials shake her resolve and make her prefer the advice of man to what she had believed to be the will of God? But the heroism of virtue supposes constancy and assiduity in acts. The more she came up against human contradictions, the more the young Thérèse multiplied her acts of trust and her protestations of abandonment into divine hands, thus preparing herself to climb the summit of Christian perfection, by the exercise of the virtues proper to spiritual childhood. Ah! the Lord did not spare her trials, and she embraced them as opportunities to detach herself ever more from the affection of creatures and to unite herself more strongly to the Spouse of her soul.
When his Bishop had finally yielded to his repeated entreaties, the fulfillment of his wish was further deferred by the prioress of Carmel who delayed his entry for three months. Thérèse could then have availed herself of the word of the Pontiff LEON XIII ordering her "to do what he
the Superiors would say”, because among her Superiors she considered above all her Bishop. But this insistence on achieving her goal, although legitimate, would lead one to believe that Thérèse relied on human arguments; his confidence would then appear diminished, and his abandonment less complete. She therefore preferred not to revolt in the face of this new disappointment, and continued to maintain herself peaceful, in the persuasion that God gives their reward in due time to those who confide in him.
In fact, the reward came for Thérèse on April 9, 1888. By a divine disposition, she was placed under the patronage of the Child Jesus, who was thus pleased to recognize the care she had already shown to honor the virtues of his childhood. But why not also say that this new title was, for the pious Carmelite, a stimulus to abandon herself ever more to the Lord? The Child of Bethlehem revealed himself to her in the arms of his most holy Mother, docile and ready to be carried from Bethlehem to Egypt, and from Egypt to Nazareth: in turn, Thérèse placed himself in the arms of the holy rule of Carmel, allowing himself to be guided in everything by religious obedience. The divine Worker of Nazareth still showed himself in his eyes always occupied with the work prescribed to him by his adoptive father, always subject to the orders of those who represented to him the authority of the heavenly Father. Following his example, Thérèse carried out with eagerness all that was ordered to her by her prioress and her mistress of the novitiate, and she did it perfectly, without complaint or observation of any kind, seeming to have lost her will of her own. This imitation of the virtues of the Savior's childhood was so admirable in the young Carmelite that if the name “of the Child Jesus” had not come to her providentially, her Sisters in religion should have bestowed it upon her. To her holy Mother of Avila, the Child-God appeared one day asking her name, and the pious reformer of Carmel replied: "My name is Teresa of Jesus", deserving to hear herself say: "And I am Thérèse's Jesus! » Likewise, the Carmelite nun of Lisieux could declare: « My name is Thérèse of the Child Jesus, because the Child Jesus is the Master and the model of Thérèse. »
This general esteem of her community made our fervent Carmelite choose to help the mistress of novices, despite her youth and the very recent date of her profession. Oh! it was the Lord who, knowing her destined for a brief existence, wanted her to accomplish great things in a short time. Indeed, she used this office to grow in virtue; far from distracting her, he perfected her in the practice of spiritual childhood. In spite of the difference of characters, in the persons with whom she had to deal, her calm suavity never altered, and the multiplicity of requests with which she was assailed never brought to her lips an accent of impatience. She appealed to Jesus-Child in her doubts, and, from this Child, whom, in the workshop of Nazareth, "one had seen grow in age and wisdom" (Luke, n, 1), she did not delay not to receive the solution of his difficulties.
Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus faithfully persevered on her path during the nine and a half years of her religious life. We therefore do not see the point of insisting further on her characteristic virtue, nor of explaining how she attained, by this virtue, the summit of Christian perfection.
We would do you an insult, O beloved Sons, if We stopped to demonstrate to you that the holiness of the Servant of God could not be tarnished by the predictions made on her deathbed, nor by her advice to spread this “Story of God” widely. 'a Soul' in which the 'little Thérèse' had revealed herself. Very humble throughout her life, she could not, at the supreme hour, express herself in terms apparently contrary to humility, except under the direct impulse of a divine order. The intelligence of man is too limited to allow him to understand the reasons of the Almighty, when he inspires his creatures with the words to speak or the advice to give. One could, without temerity, discover in it an opportune design to extend beyond the ordinary confines the efficacy of good example. Moreover, in the concrete case of Sister Thérèse, it is appropriate to recognize a special will of God to exalt the merits of spiritual childhood. In the Holy Scriptures, we read that "by the mouth of children is often given glory to God, ab ore infantium et lactentium perfecisti laudem", sometimes even the power to destroy the artifices of the enemy is added: Ut destruas inimicum et ultorem. (Ps. viu, 3.) Oh! how not to say that God destined Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, by the exercise of the virtues proper to childhood, to take rank among those who give God this perfect praise! A look at the time in which she lived would almost allow us to affirm that she had this mission: Ut destrueret inimicum et ultorem. But it would not have been possible for him to fill it without the universal diffusion of the "History of his soul".
And now, far from receiving objections, easily refutable, against the holiness of THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS, let us recognize that this holiness was formed of heroic virtues by the perpetual and practical love of spiritual childhood.
To the theoretical recognition of this truth must be added the firm intention of imitating the new Heroine. Our time, alas! shows itself too inclined to duplicities and fraudulent artifices. It is therefore not surprising that piety towards God has grown so cold, and charity towards one's neighbor so diminished. Let this kind of life be changed! To the lies, to the frauds, to the hypocrisy of the worldly, let the sincerity of the child be opposed. With this sincerity, in the light of the Carmelite Sisters of Lisieux, the holy habit of always walking in the presence of God, and the disposition to let oneself be carried by the hand of his divine Providence, are also propagated.
Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, shortly before her death, had promised to spend her Heaven doing good on earth. We know that she kept her promise, because the graces due to her intercession are innumerable. Particularly in the sad days of the recent world conflict, We ourselves received multiple letters from French soldiers and officers who attributed to Sister THERESE DE L'ENFANT-JESUS ​​their preservation in imminent perils of death. These letters bore the stamp of sincerity all the better in that they often recounted a "change of life", a pledge of gratitude towards their beneficent mediator. But who can not imagine today that the charitable Thérèse will lavish her favors even more on those who have the heart to imitate her more closely.
We therefore hope that the secret of the holiness of Sister THERESE OF THE CHILD-JESUS ​​will not remain hidden for any of Our sons. And so that in everyone it may produce the admirable effects noted in Thérèse, We call on God's blessing not only on those who are present here, but on all the members of the Christian family.
May she, however, have the first fruits of this blessing, Catholic France proud, on this day, of this new Heroine emerging from her bosom!
And may the happy diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux be particularly blessed which, through the name of Thérèse, has seen its fame increase throughout the world! May he, through his intercession, preserve for a long time the worthy Bishop who creates holy emulation among the members of his clergy, and see Christian virtue flourish among the laity!
But the roses promised by Thérèse, where should they fall more abundantly, if not in this privileged Carmel where she found the fulfillment of her burning desires! May heavenly blessings descend upon him in abundance, so that he may always remain a bed where the chosen flowers of holiness bloom!
And finally, may the comfort of divine blessing not be lacking to those who, in Rome or outside, work to promote the Cause of Beatification of the Carmelite Sisters of Lisieux. The more known, in fact, the new heroine of virtue, the greater will also be the number of her imitators who will give glory to God, by practicing the virtues of spiritual childhood.

Note: HH Pope BENEDICT XV, a few days before his death, signed this French translation of his Speech.