Only from that site of uncertainty can fall the “rain of grace,” the rain of roses that Therese is said to have promised to send to the earth & with which she is depicted on those sugary kitsch statues in almost every Catholic church on the planet. These are no artificial flowers, no perfumed paper roses: there is no rose without thorns. Last year I read what is perhaps the most thorough & in-depth biography of St Therese, from the pen of the American theologian Thomas Nevin. Free of the sweetly pious icing of previous editions, the author, who had carefully studied Therese’s authentic & unexpurgated texts, came to the convincing if somewhat shocking conclusion that this saint & doctor of the church died without faith, literally without belief in heaven & eternal life. & Nevin does not limit himself solely to an analysis of the mental states of the dying woman; his subject represents a more serious & universal theological problem.Is there something that can “replace faith” when it dies on the cross of our pains, doubts, & unanswered questions? On the verge of death, Therese confesses that she has “lost her faith” & all her certainty & light – she is now only capable of loving. She “does not see” God in the light of faith, but nonetheless she relates to Him with a passionate love. Suddenly her youthful decision that her vocation was to be love in the heart of the church loses all hint of sentimentality. God is terribly distant; the dying woman experiences only unfathomable emptiness. She is incapable of filling it with faith, because in the mist her faith has lost its “subject”; it is like the bridge at Avignon that did not reach the other bank. & yet in the depths of her suffering, there remains the thing to which she dedicated herself on the brink of adulthood, & to which she patiently exercised even when she confronted various expressions of spite on the part of her sisters in the convent – patient love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous….It endures all things,” writes the apostle Paul. [“Patience with God” Fr Tomaz Halik ] Following our Bishops yearly “ad Limina” visit to Rome the week before last,which included a meeting with Pope Francis on Friday 28th Sept, the Bishops issued a further Statement to that which they gave on Tuesday 25th September, of which you received copies last weekend. Their final Statement expressed the joy they felt in meeting the Holy Father. I would encourage you to take home a copy to read, to reflect upon & to pray for the Church as we walk forward together at this moment of crisis & reform. This Sunday, with the encouragement of Bishop Terence Patrick, we are to hold a Holy Hour “Rosary under the Cross” to pray particularly for victims of abuse within the Church. I would ask those who can’t be with us to be united with us in thought & prayer at 3pm. Last Sunday we held the latest in a series of Parish Forums in which we are together looking at the future direction of growth of our Parish. Our Vision Group, which evolved from a Forum earlier in the year, have been meeting regularly in prayer & groundwork, & they gave a tremendous presentation to over 50 parishioners of a framework towards forming a Vision Statement, into which we were immediately immersed in giving our wise counsel under 2 initial questions. It is vital that the Parish as a whole contributes to this process & the Vision Group are exploring various avenues of opportunity to include each & every one of you in this liminal moment for our Parish & its future. In this ongoing period of consultation, the Hall will remain open daily in the hope that you will find a moment to go in, to acclimatise to the project, & then to offer your valued words on the cards provided. I am most grateful to the Group for their prayerful forward thinking & for the wonderful way they are explaining & guiding us on this journey of recovery, remembrance & planning. With love & prayers, Fr Bede.