Rose Is a Rose

Thank you for David Mills’s reflection on Ann Schmalstieg Barrett’s arresting painting of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (“A No-Nonsense Thérèse,” January 2024). Like the painting you so beautifully reproduce, St. Thérèse Martin was a force to be reckoned with.

In one of the most important and powerful theological examinations of Thérèse and her significance (The Hidden Face, 1959), Ida F. Görres tells of her own initial encounter with a photograph of Thérèse. It happened at a Catholic Youth Movement meeting in Germany. Only the size of a passport photo, it was being passed from hand to hand among a group of students. “In stunned silence,” Görres recounts, “we gazed at the familiar and yet so alien features” of the actual Thérèse Martin, “until someone said: ‘…Almost like the face of a female Christ.’” “From that August morning on,” Görres continued, “I was determined to pursue the riddle and look of her smile—so different from the honeyed insipidity of the usual representation of her.”

When Dorothy Day was later writing her own book Thérèse (Fides, 1960), she acknowledged the impact Görres’s book had on her own thinking, and that friends had even cautioned her that “[t]he best book has been written. The last word said.” Still, Day persisted in writing her own reflection on Thérèse and the saint’s short but profound life.

Thank you for helping us reconsider the real St. Thérèse.

Patrick Jordan
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Public Good, Private Sector?

Luke Mayville’s article (“The Battle Against School Vouchers,” December 2023), drawing on Berkshire and Schneider’s book on the school voucher movement, assumes but never quite explains why, if elementary and secondary education is a “public good,” it should not only be paid for by taxpayers but also provided by the public sector. This hard connection is not made in the case of national defense—presumably also a public good—since the defense department does not normally directly produce military equipment (e.g. airplanes). Is there something lurking in the background—perhaps the desire to attack foolish or unwarranted complaints about what is allegedly being taught in some U.S. public schools, or concern for the welfare of unions more present in publicly organized schools, or maybe supposedly antisocial doctrines propounded in religious schools? Was my daughter’s education in a private school (Sidwell Friends) less valuable than my granddaughter’s education in a public school (Oyster-Adams)? Do the Jesuits who have operated my parish school at Holy Trinity since 1818 bungle the job, perhaps lacking experience in education?

Taxpayers luck out when private education—religious or otherwise—exists, since they can avoid having to pay to educate all children, thereby excluding support from some of them. That is the real meaning of complaints that vouchers or other support would take funds away from public education. 

Robert L. Harlow
Washington D.C.

Are the U.S. Bishops Sleepwalking?

Regarding Peter Steinfels’s article “Preeminently Outdated” (January 2024), I only want to say thank you for your voice. Clearly, Pope Francis does care. I wonder if the pope’s own experience as bishop in a brutally repressive Argentina—and authoritarian-dominated Latin America more broadly—shaped his sense of urgency on this issue. The U.S. bishops and many of my fellow citizens, by contrast, appear to be sleepwalking into this election and its possible life- and freedom-denying repercussions beyond just the abortion issue. My hope is that voices like Steinfels’s will wake them and us up to a sense of urgency.

Tom Crotty
Sinking Spring, Pa.

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Published in the March 2024 issue: View Contents
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