St. Therese of Lisieux was born in 1873 in France to pious parents. She was one among nine siblings. Her life was not a bed of roses. She faced her mother’s death at the tender age of four and a half. Her sixteen year old sister, Pauline, was forced to step in and take over the role of her mother. But after five years Pauline entered the Carmelite convent, leaving little Therese with yet another void to fill.
Therese had a great love for God and prayed all the time. She developed the habit of mental prayer, sitting in solitude in the space between her bed and the wall. At a very early age itself, she decided to join the Carmelite convent that her sisters, Pauline and Marie had joined. Her plea was declined since she was way too young and shy to join the holy order. But this did not deter her. She pleaded with the bishop as well as the Pope, and was finally admitted to the convent.
Therese realized that being a cloistered Carmelite nun would not permit her to perform great deeds. Hence, she took every chance to sacrifice, no matter how small it seemed –her “little ways“. She translated “the little way” in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people she met every day. She took her assignments in the convent as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan by taking care of the altar and the chapel; she served in the refectory and in the laundry room. Above all, she tried to show love for all the nuns in the community. She had no favorites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. She believed that “without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing“. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was full of loving commitment that knew no bounds. It is called the “little way” precisely because it was simple, direct, yet requiring amazing fortitude and commitment.
In living out her life of faith, she sensed that everything that she was able to accomplish came from the generous love of God in her life. She considered these accomplishments to be little roses in God’s heavenly garden. She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24.
St. Therese has been a great inspiration and motivation for me to live a life of holiness. Ever since I started my devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux a year ago, she has been leaving beautifully scented roses from heaven in various areas of my life. I have been inspired by her simple way of living. We may think that in order to be holy and worthy of God’s blessings, we must do great deeds; but St. Therese’s life showed otherwise. It is the intention coupled with love that makes a deed great. When I moved away from home to study further, I came in contact with people from different backgrounds and mind sets. It was difficult to deal with these differences, but eventually through observing St. Therese’s “little ways” in my life, I have come to love all those around me with their differences. It made me realize that our world is in need of love; in fact it is longing for love. And we should
“miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice… doing it all for love”.
Keeping these in mind, I try my best to live every day by doing small sacrifices, be it cooking dinner when I’ve had a tiring day, helping out my classmates when they’re having a tough time understanding, smiling at the street dwellers and those travelling with me in the train, giving way to those in a hurry even if they push me around, making a call to my little sister even though I don’t like to be all ‘lovey’ with her, letting my brother have the bigger piece of chicken even though I’d like it. But all of this is done out of love and not a heart of wanting to be rewarded in return from anyone –just growing my garden of roses in heaven!
St. Therese’s little way seems to put holiness within the reach of ordinary people. So, live your days with confidence in God’s love for you. Know that each day is a gift and you can make a difference by the way you choose to live it. Choose life, not the darkness of pettiness and greed. St. Therese knew the difference love makes and hence allowed it to be the statement she made each day of her life. Choose love!
Article by Belinda de Melo