St Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower)
and St Joseph Moscati
The two great Saints of our age
Giuseppe Samà s.j.
(Translated by Patrizia Chianura)
"We need saints very much, and we have to ask God for them assiduously." This message of the Holy Father came to our mind, when we were going by train to France on June '96 : we were a little group of religious and laic people devoted followers of St. Therese and desirous of deepening "her little way".
Lisieux appears as an oasis of silence and peace, an ideal place to make retreats, with moments of meditation and prayer, of which there is urgent necessity today, owing to dominant super activism.
From the basilica of St Therese to Carmelo and Ermitage S. Thérèse (where we were guests and where we had our meetings of prayer and Eucharistic adoration) we had the possibility to assimilate the different stages of her inner growth , in her trials proofs of a secret Gethsemane that she lived with an uncommon generosity.
At St. Therese's school, defined "the word of God" by Pius XI , we have discovered again the glamour of the spiritual infancy that has its roots in the words of Jesus : "Unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 18,3). Becoming "little" is to be "great" in the Kingdom of Heaven: "This is the way of confidence and trust in God or - according to S. Therese - a sleeping in the arms of God" who watches over us with fatherly love.
God’s love, in the form of heroism inspired our Saint, fifteen months after the Act of Offer to Merciful Love, what Laurentin defined her "manifesto", which was written in a letter to her sister Mary (Manuscript B, nn.250-254).
Therese keeps a lot of desires and dreams: it seems that "the Carmelo" is not enough to her restless heart open to many vocations : "I feel - she said - vocation of the priest, of the apostle , of the doctor , of the martyr [...]; my Lord , what will you answer to all my follies?".
The Lord answers Therese with the reading of I letter to Corinthians (1 Cor 12-13), in which the apostle Paul, after having compared the church to a living organism, made up of a lot of limbs with different and complementary functions, adds that there is "a way above all": Love, without which even the most perfect gifts are nothing".
Therese, full of divine Love, says: "At last I found my calling! My calling is love! In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love . So I will be everything and my dream will become true". Pius XI confirmed it, when in 1927 he proclaimed St. Therese the "Patron Saint of Missions", like the great missionary of modern times: St. Francis Xavier.
When we were in the chapel of "Ermitage", we could not avoid making ideal approach points in our mind between the Carmelite saint, Therese of the Child Jesus, and Saint Joseph Moscati, the "holy doctor of Naples", a famous clinician, scientist and university professor who died in 1927 47 years old.
We know he was a votary of the saint Therese through his letters and because he had a big picture of her in his bedroom (it is preserved into "Moscati's room of Gesù Nuovo church, Naples now). On 18 July 1923 - a short time after the beatification of Therese on 29 April 1923 - Moscati had a temptation of discouragement, and he got over it with the words of Therese about this phenomen as they are related in "A soul’s story": "A few days ago, I read a sentence which suits me: "My Lord, also discouragement is a sin". Yes it is a sin of pride , because it makes me believe I have accepted a proud opinion of myself, of having made great things! When on the contrary, one has always been a useless servant".
Many letters, which were written from Edinburgh in 1923, contain references to "the blessed Therese". In the letter to his sister Nina (24 July 1923), Moscati tells her he visited the Jesuit's house in Lauriston Place, and he adds: "I went in and found the picture of the blessed Therese of Infant Jesus being put up". In an other letter - of July 1923 - he wrote to his sister: "I have promised to Miss Nasmyth to send her the French text of the blessed Therese. Or better still, Nina, you can send it to her on behalf of me". This was because Moscati felt obliged for all kindnesses of hospitality that Miss Nasmyth had for him. On his return from Edinburgh, our saint stopping at Paris and writes home, with this post-scriptum: "Here I have found the editions of the "Vie de la bienheurese Thérèse" ended".
We have an other witness of the spirituality of Saint Therese in the soul of Joseph Moscati, in a letter of 7 March 1924. Moscati used to go to Lecce every month and here he met the daughter of the notary De Magistris, and he exhorted her to be devotee of Therese. He wrote a letter after he knew of the premature death of the girl.
"I have, here, on my table, among the first beautiful flowers of spring, the picture of your daughter, and I pause to meditate on the caducity of human things , while I am writing! Beauty, every enchantment of life passes away... Eternal remains only love, the cause of every good deed, survives to us and is hope and religion, because God is love. Satan tried to corrupt human love, but God cleansed it across his death. Oh grandiose death, it isn't the end , but the beginning of the sublime and divine, in whose presence these flowers and beauty are nothing! Your Angel, snatched away by death in her youth like blessed Therese, continues to assist you and her mother from Heaven".
These quotations help us think that St. Joseph Moscati drew strength and consolation from the devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, living his inner life in a deep union with God. His morning meetings with God in Gesù Nuovo or in St. Clare churches, were like a centre of gravitation of his working - days and of his service of patients, in whom he served and loved Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus urged him to do of his profession "a priesthood of bodies and souls". In a letter of 1926 he says: "Blessed are we doctors, often unable to remove illness, blessed are we if we remember that we have in the presence of sick people, not only bodies to cure, but also divine and eternal souls, and we must love them as ourselves".
St. Joseph Moscati did not keep a diary by which we could reconstitute the story of his inner relation with God . Nevertheless a note, which has been found out after his death, makes us understand how he was in love with Jesus: "Jesus, my love - we read in his note of 5 June 1922 - your love makes me sublime; your love sanctifies me, it turns me not only towards one only creature, but towards all creatures, towards the infinite beauty of all beings created in your own image and likeness".
This prayer of St. Joseph Moscati sounds like the inspired voice of S. Therese of the Child Jesus, the saint of Love: "Let us practise charity - he says - let us not forget to make an offer of our actions every day, every moment, doing everything for love sake".
From Joseph Moscati such an ardour of evangelic charity was given off, which was transformed in a silent germination that Paul VI called "Little Flowers of Professor Moscati". Among his patients there was often someone who found a large bank - note under his pillow and many times it was the same Moscati who provided for the expenses of medicines . For Saint Giuseppe Moscati the gospel of charity is inseparable from the love and the service of truth, as he wrote in a note of 17 October 1922:
"Love the truth, show yourself as you are, without feigning, fears and cares. And if the truth costs you persecution, you accept it; and if it costs you torment, support it. And if for the truth you have to sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your self-sacrifice".
St. Joseph Moscati lived in a social and cultural context full of positivism and incredulity . He was always ready to fight for the truth. The search of the truth makes the christian believer free and victorious over the mentality of the world.
A few hours before her death on September 30 1897 Therese said: "It seems to me that I have always looked for the truth. Yes, I have understood the humility of heart. "That humility - von Balthasan says - which is on the razor's edge between the abyss of the truth and lie; humility that is not a virtue, but a conviction of not having any virtue, because all comes from God".
moscati @ mbx.clicnet.it