St Theresa of the Child Jesus

Virgin, Religious, and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven on September 30th, 1897)

Dear Theodore,

You have caught the biggest spiritual malaise of today’s world: wimpiness.  But that’s OK. It’s like chicken pox; once you get it and get over it, you can’t get it again, and you can then tend the poor souls who do get it.  So you’ve got it. So now you just need to get over it, which you can do without much difficulty. All you need to do is decide that you’re going to be a Christian first, and everything else second.  Christian first. That means that you are always going to look at everything that happens in the world, and everything that happens to you, from Christ’s perspective. God is all-powerful, and his is all-knowing, and his is all-present and all-loving.  That means that he’s always thinking of you and coordinating all the events around your life for your betterment. All you have to do is open your eyes of faith and see his hand work. If you decide to do this, I guarantee you will have a spiritual revolution that will transform you forever.  The example of today’s saint should give your efforts an extra boost.

Theresa of the Child Jesus (also known as Theresa of Lisieux) lived to be a mere 24 years old, but in those few years she reached the heights of sanctity.  Her parents were devout and prudent, and though her mother died when she was only a little girl, her father and her five sisters took excellent care of her, above all instructing her in the faith, to which she showed a keen sensibility from a very early age.  Privileged moments of grace adorned her early years, and when her oldest sister joined the nearby Carmelite convent she felt drawn to follow (eventually, four of the five girls in the Martin family joined that same convent). For her, the religious life was not a flight from the world so much as a flight into the arms of her beloved Jesus.  And right from her entrance (at age 15 – she received special permission to enter early) the Lord showered her with spiritual insights, as well as a healthy share of spiritual and physical trials, which purified her love.

Through her years as a religious, and eventually as a novice instructor, she developed what she termed her “little way” to holiness, a way custom fitted for “little souls.”  It consisted in finding God’s will in the most mundane tasks and happenings of every day, and embracing it with simple, childlike love. For example, one of her sisters was making noise with her rosary beads in the chapel, such that Therese was distracted in her prayer.  Instead of letting herself get frustrated, she imagined that the noise was beautiful music, and in her heart offered it to Jesus as a prayer. Another example: she used to often fall asleep during the silent time of thanksgiving after Mass in the chapel. At first this vexed her, but then she reflected that parents love their children equally when they are asleep or awake, and God would not do less.  One sister in the convent used to unwittingly splash Therese with water whenever they had to do the wash together (which was often). This was annoying. But instead of rebuking the sister and becoming angry, in her imagination Therese likened the drops of water to drops of God’s grace, which are every moment being showered down upon us, and welcomed them with a prayer of thanksgiving. Her autobiography (Story of a Soul), written under obedience, is bursting with similar insights and examples.

A soul so determined to find God and trust him in all things could not be long for this earth.  And after a final year of horrible spiritual (and physical) sufferings and long, drawn-out temptations, she was called to her heavenly abode.  On her deathbed she uttered a promise: “I have never given the good God aught but love, and it is with love that he will repay. After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.”  I pray that she sends some roses your way – no, I pray that she sends one little rose your way, because that’s all you need to break out of the deadening wimpiness that oppresses you: the rose of wisdom, which allows you to taste God’s love in everything that transpires.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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