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St Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Virgin, Religious, and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven in 1897)
God is not a grim examiner, or a scorekeeper, or a statistician; he is your Father. To fall into discouragement and anxiety because of your sins and imperfections is not at all the way to please him. He is pleased by your love. He is pleased by your attempts to show him your love. He is pleased merely by your desires to love him. Go to him with all your concerns. Never hold anything back from him. If ever you feel hesitancy or distaste when you begin to pray (or when you think about praying), you can be sure that it doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit. What Father wants his child to stay away from him? No, never let anything come between you and him. He is always looking out for you, always hoping that you will share everything with him – your most significant and your most insignificant thoughts, desires, joys, and sorrows.
This absolute, unshakable confidence in God was the great discovery of today’s saint. Therese of the Child Jesus (also known as Therese 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, to free you from the spiritual paralysis that comes from depending solely on one’s own strength to achieve union with God.
Prayerfully your Uncle,