St. Therese of Lisieux was born in France, 1873. She was a Carmelite nun and become known at “The Little Flower.” She’s generally portrayed in her habit, cradling her Bible and a bouquet of red roses. It’s a pious and perfect picture.
Instead, I want to you picture a vibrant 8-yearold. She has long, curly hair, and bright, inquisitive eyes. She loves being with her family and has a deep passion for God. This is how I first came to know St. Therese, and I find her fascinating.
Therese lived a short life. After entering the convent as a teenager, she died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 24. By the standards of human history, Therese should have lived and died in obscurity. But the way she lived her life has been an inspiration for millions of people, religious and non-religious alike. How did this happen?
Therese was born into a deeply religious family familiar with grief. She was the youngest of nine in a family where only five children survived early childhood. When Therese was only four and a half, her mother passed away.
Therese was a sickly child, and suffered greatly throughout her childhood. She was shy, sensitive, and bullied.
But Therese had an unlikely hero: Joan of Arc. Therese loved Joan of Arc! She wrote poems and plays about her. She loved her stories of battles and conquests. She admired the great things Joan did for God.
Throughout her life, Therese felt the calling to enter the convent and, by age 15, she felt it was time for her to start the part of her life. Unfortunately, the convent only allowed entrance at age 21, but that wouldn’t stop Therese. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Therese took advantage of a general audience with the Pope to make her plea. The Pope wouldn’t directly grant her permission, but said it would happen “if it is God’s will.” Within months, Therese was granted admission into the convent.
This young passionate woman wanted to be like her hero, Joan of Arc. She wanted to do great things for God. But she was still sickly, shy, and sensitive. And now, she lived in a small, cloistered environment.
One day, she was reading Proverbs and discovered this verse:
“Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me.” (9:4)
She realized that her smallness wasn’t a deficit, but a strength. She could do great things for God through her littleness. The became the start of St. Therese’s teaching called The Little Way.
For my Lenten practice, I decided to live out The Little Way. Here are three things that I found powerful about this amazing teaching:
#1. Be Little Imagine a baby asleep in her father’s arms. She fears nothing. She trusts she will be safe, protected, and loved. Now, imagine that you are that child, supported and covered by the great love of your heavenly Father. This is what is means to be little.
#2. Pray With Simplicity When you feel that great trust and intimacy with God, you don’t need formal, perfect prayers. St. Therese loved talking with Jesus. She encourages us to be open and honest with God, trusting that He will hear the cry of our hearts, even with simple and plain words.
#3. Do Ordinary Things With Extraordinary Love St. Therese’s limited life meant that she could only do ordinary things, but she realized she could infuse them with the great love of God. What could this look like in our lives? What about something as simple as grocery shopping? How could this look if we infused it with extraordinary love? Would it change the food we buy for our families? Or our choice of where we shop? How could it change the way we treat people in the aisles, or that cashier who wears a permanent frown? Think of all the ordinary things we do in our work, homes, communities and social activities. How could these things change if we infused them with God’s extraordinary love?
St. Therese lived almost 150 years ago, and yet her teaching of The Little Way still speaks to us today. Let us follow her inspiration!