Pope to Georgian Catholics: imitate St. Therese's 'little way'

This image of St Therese of Lisieux was a gift presented to Pope Francis by French journalist Caroline Pigozzi Photo courtesy of Caroline Pigozzi This image of St. Therese of Lisieux was a gift presented to Pope Francis by French journalist Caroline Pigozzi. Photo courtesy of Caroline Pigozzi/CNA.

It's important to follow the example of St. Therese's "little way," trusting in God and his consolation with the faith a small child, Pope Francis said Saturday, which marked the feast of the young saint and Doctor of the Church.

Quoting from her autobiography, he said St. Therese "shows her 'little way' to God, the trust of a little child who falls asleep without fear in his Father's arms, because 'Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude.'"

"To receive God's love we need this littleness of heart: only little ones can be held in their mothers' arms," the Pope said during his homily at M. Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia Oct. 1.

"Here in Georgia there are a great number of grandmothers and mothers who unceasingly defend and pass on the faith," he said, adding that they "bring the fresh water of God's consolation to countless situations of barrenness and conflict."

Tbilisi is the Pope's first stop during his Sept. 30-Oct. 2 visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan. Expected to largely focus on the topics of peace, ecumenism, and interreligious dialogue, the trip is seen as a conclusion of his Caucasus tour, following his visit to Armenia in June.

In Georgia, Eastern Orthodox make up 84 percent of the population, Muslims 10 percent, Apostolic Armenians close to three, and Catholics less than one percent.

The Pope's homily at the public Mass centered on the comfort of God as being like the comfort of a father to his children.

"As he looks at us, he is always moved and becomes tender-hearted, with a love from the depths of his being, for beyond any evil we are capable of, we always remain his children; he wants to take us in his arms, protect us, and free us from harm and evil," he said.

It is God's presence that frees us and gives us joy, even amid conflict or turmoil in our lives, Francis said. "For this reason, if we want to experience his consolation, we must give way to the Lord in our lives."

"There are doors of consolation which must always be open, because Jesus especially loves to enter through them: the Gospel we read every day and carry around with us, our silent prayer in adoration, confession, the Eucharist. It is through these doors that the Lord enters and gives new flavor to reality."

"When the door of our heart is closed, however, his light cannot enter in and everything remains dark," he added.

Pope Francis noted also the importance of community, saying that "in the Church we find consolation, the Church is the house of consolation: here God wishes to console us."

"It is when we are united, in communion, that God's consolation works in us," he said, explaining that we must ask ourselves if we who are in the Church truly bring God's consolation to others and welcome them, consoling the tired and disillusioned.

"Dear brothers and sisters, let us take up this call: to not bury ourselves in what is going wrong around us or be saddened by the lack of harmony between us."

"It is not good for us to become accustomed to a closed ecclesial micro-environment," but rather "to share wide horizons open to hope, having the courage to humbly open our doors and go beyond ourselves," Francis said.

The Pope also stressed the need to always trust and hope in the surprises of God. Doing this, he said, "will help us to remember that we are constantly and primarily his children."

We are "not masters of our lives, but children of the Father; not autonomous and self-sufficient adults, but children who always need to be lifted up and embraced, who need love and forgiveness," the Pope continued.

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"Blessed are those Christian communities who live this authentic gospel simplicity!" he said. "Blessed are the Shepherds who do not ride the logic of worldly success, but follow the law of love: welcoming, listening, serving."

"Blessed is the Church who does not entrust herself to the criteria of functionalism and organizational efficiency, nor worries about her image," he added.

Pope Francis offered encouragement to the "little and beloved flock of Georgia," telling them to receive the encouragement of the Good Shepherd who "takes you on his shoulders and consoles you."

"The true greatness of man consists in making himself small before God," he said, adding that God is not known through "grand ideas and extensive study, but rather through the littleness of a humble and trusting heart."

"To be great before the Most High does not require the accumulation of honor and prestige or earthly goods and success, but rather a complete self-emptying."

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