“The little way” – simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.
Every year Catholics try to answer the age-old question: What should I do for Lent? During this Lent, I will offer a selection of “Tips” for the spiritual life from others. This week we turn to St Therese of Lisieux and her “little way”. She believed that the people of her time lived in great fear of Gods judgment. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God. St. Therese knew from her life that God is merciful love; many scripture passages in the Old and New Testaments bore out that truth. She loved the maternal images for God in the Old Testament and the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In fact, St. Therese once wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a child. She also knew that she would never be perfect. Therefore, she went to God as a child approaches a parent with open arms and a profound trust.
St. Therese translated “the little way” in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her tasks in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan, she served in the refectory and in the laundry room; she wrote plays for the entertainment of the community. She tried to show a love for all the nuns in the community. She had no favourites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.
In living out her life of faith she sensed that everything that she was able to accomplish came from a generous love of God in her life. She was convinced that at the end of her life she would go to God with empty hands. She understood that all was accomplished in union with God.
St Therese seems to put holiness of life within the reach of all Christians.
1. You ask me for a method of attaining perfection. I know of Love – and Love only! Our hearts are made for it alone. Sometimes I endeavour to find some other word for love; but in a land of exile words which have a beginning and an end are quite unable to render adequately the emotions of the soul, and so we must keep to the one simple word – Love.
2. I desire neither death nor life. Were Our Lord to offer me my choice, I would not choose. I only will what he wills, and I am pleased with whatever he does.
3. You know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.
4. For me, prayer is an uplifting of the heart, a glance towards Heaven, a cry of gratitude and of love in times of sorrow as well as of joy. It is something noble, something supernatural, which expands the soul and unites it to God.
5. It seems to me that if our sacrifices take Jesus captive, our joys make him prisoner too. All that is needed to attain this is that, instead of giving ourselves over to selfish happiness, we offer to our Spouse the little joys he scatters in our path to charm our hearts and draw them towards him.
6. Remember that our sweet Jesus is there in the Tabernacle expressly for you and you alone. Remember that he burns with the desire to enter your heart.
7. As soon as I am aware of them [distractions], I pray for those people the thought of whom is diverting my attention, and in this way they reap benefits from my distractions.
8. Far from resembling those heroic souls who from their childhood use fast and scourge and chain to discipline the flesh, I made my mortifications consist simply in checking my self-will, keeping back an impatient answer, rendering a small service in a quiet way, and a hundred other similar things.
9. When my state of spiritual aridity is such that not a single good thought will come, I repeat very slowly, the ‘Our Father’ and the ‘Hail Mary’, which suffice to console me, and provide divine food for my soul.
10. The remembrance of my faults humbles me, and helps me never to rely upon my own strength, which is mere weakness.