I was drawn to this book , an autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, while reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The Story of A Soul had a profound effect on Rubin, and St. Therese became her spiritual master. The story of a simple nun who called herself the Little Flower of Jesus intrigued me and I wanted to read more...
Although, I grew up Catholic and attended 12 years of parochial school, I knew relatively little about St. Therese. I was born in 1965, during Vatican II. In the 1970s, many of the teachings of the church, like the praying of the rosary and the lives of the saints, were not emphasized in the faith formation at Catholic schools. At least, they were not in the Catholic elementary and high school I attended in Central Coast California.
However, as an adult, I see the importance of learning how holy men and women try to live ordinary lives of extraordinary grace. I also would like to teach my children about the saint, whose favorite bible quotation was, " Let the little children come unto me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:13).
It was in this way, I approached reading about the life of St, Therese. Like Gretchen Ruben, I, too, wanted learn from and imitate this spiritual master. It would be difficult to find someone who had a more personal relationship with Jesus than St. Therese. At the age of 14, she traveled with her father to Rome will the hope of obtaining special permission from the Pope to enter Carmel in Lisieux . In fact, she was literally dragged out of the audience room with Pope Leo XIII after she grabbed his legs and refused to let go while begged him for his blessing. Although young, she was determined and persistent. Therese wholeheartedly desired to be a Bride of Jesus.
Once in the Carmelite convent, St. Therese prayed for the souls of priests, for the success of missions, and for the sinners most in need of God's mercy. Saint Therese longed for a most active role, she desired to be a priest, a martyr, or Joan of Arc. Instead, she found her vocation of serving Jesus in "Her little way." In this, Saint Therese offered up all of her sufferings, and humiliations to Jesus as gift. Through her life, she maintained a cheerful disposition, so muchso that the other sisters did not realize she was suffering from Tuberculosis and gangrene.
In one example, Saint Therese went out of her way to befriend a nun who disliked Therese and belittled her every chance she could. Instead of avoiding the sister, Saint Therese took special attention to smile at her when the nun was especially rude to her. In another example, Saint Therese, offered up to Jesus her irritation of an old Nun who constantly broke her concentration when she prayed. In yet another, she willingly ate without complaint the food no one else would eat, even though it caused her severe indigestion.
Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote, "If God grants my desires, my Heaven will be spent on earth until the end of time. Yes, I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth...I will return! I will come down!"
After her death at the age of twenty four, she was virtually an unknown except for her family and her community of Carmelites. However, through the publication of her autobiography, she started become known through her native France and Europe. Soon many asked for her intercession to our Lord, and they reported their requests were answered.
As I transitioned into the much more private life of home, I, too, am challenged how I can do to serve the Lord. As my old friend, Stephanie recently commented, "Just remember that your girls will remember your attitude and your demeanor more than they will remember the little details of what you do or do not do for them. They will remember your smile and your laugh. Keep smiling and laughing and when things go crazy, just laugh. "