Little Things Done with Great Love: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 5

Six Mondays until the General Election…

And I decided not to write about that today, because today is the memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. So it seems more appropriate not to write about mundane things today.

Thérèse of Lisieux — 1873-1897

We have much to learn from this “little” saint.

Saint Thérèse, who never left the convent, is the patron saint of missionaries. She knew more than anyone that the most important thing to do before any task or event, big or small, was to pray. Today, she is still teaching us how to pray, through her spiritual masterpiece, Story of a Soul.

I do not have the courage to force myself to search out beautiful prayers in books. There are so many of them it really gives me a headache! And each prayer is more beautiful than the others. I cannot recite them all, and not knowing which to choose, I do like children who do not know how to read, I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. (Translation, Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D.)

In the Story of a Soul, her “little way” is as enlightening as it is humbling; anyone who reads it can identify with it. Saint Thérèse has a way of saying things we’ve all thought before (well, maybe not) but have not had the guts to say or the clarity of thought to put it into words. She takes what we all find hard and makes it simple, and she makes you believe that it really is so simple. If she can do it, you can do it to.

How does she do it?

Shortly before she died at the very young age of 24, she wrote these words in a letter to a Missionary in China:

Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires. I close the learned book which is breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons; perfection seems simple; I see that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms. Leaving to great souls, to great minds, the beautiful books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.

Love and simplicity. That’s the only secret. Little things done with great love:

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

Thus she became known to us as the Little Flower.

The Story of a Soul is a great book to have by your bedside. When the ordinary things in life start to grind on you or when you are experiencing dryness in prayer, just a few sentences from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux will inspire you to pick up your Bible and pray a little longer. If you don’t read anything else spiritual this week, you really ought to read just a few more excerpts from her Story.

And to all you Theresas out there, Happy Feast Day!

5 comments

  1. “I see that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms.” So simple, yet so profound and what we should all aspire to. St. Therese’s feast day corresponds nicely with today’s gospel reading since she knew how to be childlike. Thanks for the well wishes for today.

  2. St Therese reminds us of the ultimate simplicity of the Gospel, and of our relationship with God as children to their Father. Nicely done! God bless!

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