Perfect love casts out fear – Bishop Donal McKeown at Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

by | 9 May, 2017 | News

The Little Way Novena is taking place in the Diocese of Derry this week at Saint Eugenes Cathedral. Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, spoke at the opening night of the Novena on Sunday 7 May on the theme ‘to live out of love is to banish all fear’.

Introducing the theme of this year’s Novena, Bishop McKeown said, “Sometimes saints are seen as if they were free-standing holy people, to be honoured in their own right. However, like Mary, all saints point only to God. Thus, this simple quotation for Saint Thérèse that we have as a theme this year is not her invention but an echo from her scripture-filled heart of a phrase from the first letter of Saint John, where the beloved disciple writes ‘God is love … In love there can be no fear but fear is driven out by perfect love’ (1 John 4:16 and 18).”

He continued, “Saint Thérèse is known affectionately as the Little Flower. Her official name in the convent was ‘Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face’ but despite the fact that she died at the age of 24, she had a great sense of the dignity of little things before the great God. She loved flowers and saw herself as the ‘little flower of Jesus,’ who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. She believed that, even though she was ill and living in a monastery, she could become a missionary, just by loving. Her vocation was to be love at the heart of the Church – and she knew what St John meant, for perfect love casts out fear.”

Bishop McKeown concluded his address saying, “Use this week to know the liberating power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can face the truth and not be frightened of it or crushed by it. Spend some time in silence, not bombarding God with your words but listening to the sounds of silence, reflecting on the perfect love that casts out fear. Pray for courageous young people who will take on marriage and vocations to the priesthood and religious life, rebelling against the culture that puts me in the middle of everything and opting, like Thérèse, to love the world. Be aware of the voices that sell simplistic solutions to complex problems. The gift of forgiveness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are free. The gift of Jesus, the Bread of Life is free. And it is in accepting the free gift of God’s love that we really become free and can face our fears.”

The Little Way Novena offers an opportunity to pray for a special intention and to ask Saint Thérèse of Lisieux to intercede. Mass will be celebrated in the Saint Eugene’s Cathedral from Monday to Friday at 6.30am and 10.00am, each typically drawing crowds of over 900 faithful during the Novena. Music at the 10.00am Masses will be provided by the students of local primary schools.

Prayer will be held each evening at 7.30pm, followed by a guest speaker. Tonight, Tuesday 9 May, Author Jon Sweeney will speak on his faith journey. Other speakers will include Adi Roach of Chernobyl Children International on Wednesday evening, and Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Derry, and Rector of the nearby Christ Church, Ven Robert Miller will share his faith and his commitment to ecumenism on Thursday 11 May.

On Friday 12 May, with Sister Vinedha, Missionary of Charity, who will speak about her life and experience working with Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Sister Vinedha will also bring relics of Mother Teresa to the evening and during the prayer the new Mother Teresa Chapel in the cathedral will be blessed. The new Chapel will hold approximately 20 people. The primary purpose of the Chapel will be Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as being used for children’s liturgies and tea on First Fridays.

On Saturday May 13, there will be a Mass for all who have died at 10.00am and the Novena will close on Sunday May 14 at 3.00pm with the Blessings of Roses.

For more information on the Little Way Novena please visit



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