It is a story of true holiness and manipulated documents that told by Gianni Gennari in his new book “Teresa di Lisieux, il fascino della santità. I segreti di una “dottrina” ritrovata” (Thérèse of Lisieux, The appeal of Sainthood. The secrets of a rediscovered “doctrine” – Lindau publishers, 616 pages, 38 Euros). And one recounted in meticulous detail and inspired by documents that remained unpublished until now. The volume reconstructs the life of an extraordinary woman. Saint Thérèse of the Child of Jesus is remembered by faithful as the “little saint” and is identified with the “spiritual infancy” described in Matthew’s Gospel: “If you do not change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
And yet Thérèse Françoise Marie Martin who died in the Carmel of Lisieux at the tender age of 24 in September 1897 and was canonised by Pius XI in 1925, never used the expression “spiritual infancy” in her original writings.
The book demonstrates very clearly that the doctrine of “spiritual infancy” was the brainchild of Thérèse’s sisters who were disciples of the Jesuit, Almire Pichon. Gennari writes that for fifty years, the sisters led everyone, including the Popes, to see in her the prefect embodiment of the teachings of their spiritual director. And they managed this on their own.” They did so by spreading their faith, by presenting Thérèse’s writings, which were often altered and manipulated, and also through their testimonies and the correspondence they exchanged with the Holy See when Popes needed to prepare speeches on the saint.
Interesting - an even better Catholic spirituality, grounded in divinization or theosis.