St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302
The annual Little Way Novena takes place in St Eugene's Cathedral, Derry, Northern Ireland from Sunday, 9th to Sunday, 16th May 2021.
Theme: Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.
Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.
"I know of no other means to reach perfection than by love. To love: how perfectly our hearts are made for this! Sometimes I look for another word to use, but, in this land of exile, no other word so well expresses the vibrations of our soul. Hence, we must keep to that one word: love."
This annual novena has retained its popularity down through the years. I know that we have had some memorable speakers. But the main attraction has always been the fascinating figure of St Therese of Lisieux.
She is an attractive saint because she was real. She was in many ways a spoiled child who wanted things her way. And yet during her short life, marked by loss and illness, she allowed the Lord to mould the strong passions of her heart to serve his Kingdom. This meant that she found joy in the will of God. Her struggles with pain and disappointment did not make her sour or angry but purified her so that she could still be passionate but joyful. The love of God took this real woman and formed her into a saint with her own little hidden way. That is why she remains such an attractive model of holiness for every generation.
And we need to remember that she was a young saint, who did not reach her 25th birthday. Our modern culture tells us that we should have fun and avoid too many responsibilities before life becomes complicated. Therese grasped difficult nettles when she was a teenager. Therese was a sensitive child who knew the loss of her mother when she was four. Often her health was not good. But precisely in these painful circumstances, she became convinced of the love of God for her. Aged 13, she had a deep experience of God's love. In her own words, she wrote, "God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant …Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood." She was able to develop a childlike maturity. She had little time for childish adulthood. St Therese is not just sweet and harmless. She calls us this week to help our young people mature and grow in wisdom. A society which canonises childishness or selfishness does them no favours. A Church which cherishes Therese, Clare Crockett and Carlo Acutis helps heroes to be born out of the furnace of struggle.
Therese also promoted the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. She was able to see the love of God, even in the bleeding face of Jesus, imprinted on the cloth of Veronica. She saw the suffering face of Jesus as the one who is in loving solidarity with the suffering world. Our world faces much pain and loss. She would invite us this week to come with our own scars to the foot of the Cross and to leave them with Jesus. He will make sense of loss. He will bring resurrection where we can see only disaster. Therese knew that from her own experience. Love makes sense of suffering.
Finally, our Sunday Gospel today tells of Jesus who loves us as the Father has loved him. Love is not something that we try to offer so much as a gift that we receive. We can love because God has loved us first. The love of God is the model and source of all human love. Thus, St Therese could write, "After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone.... In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself. " This is a week to savour the love of God, given as a free gift here and hereafter. Only in God's love can our joy be complete.
I hope and pray that this can be a time of renewal as people recover from the wounds of the pandemic and of lockdowns. There is much need for healing. St Therese offers her example and her intercession. In her time, she allowed God's grace to work because she was not afraid of being real. We too can allow God into our lives. That is why she is a saint for a modern world. May she accompany and inspire us this week to know the love of God that she came to know.
+ Donal McKeown
 Quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, para 2011
Due to current restrictions, services in St Eugene's Cathedral is by ticket only.
From Monday to Friday there will be Novena Masses each morning. Each evening there will be Evening Devotions with a guest speaker and a time for silent prayer in the presence of the Eucharist.
Mass for those who have died: 8.30am and 10.00am
Closing Ceremony and Blessing of Roses: 3.00pm and 4.30pm