“Do small things with great love,” she said, as if this were the easiest task in all the universe. She who was hypersensitive and feared staining her baptismal gown at all. She who seemed so meek and humble and perfect. She who struggled with her own inadequacies every day of her life.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux struggled with being little and unseen; she very much wanted to be big and noticed. I struggle with this, too; I struggle with wanting people to notice me, to really see me, to affirm me. Now, none of these are necessarily bad things when they are found as a side effect or bonus of doing the work we are supposed to be doing, but when sought for their own sake, they are nothing but vanity. St. Thérèse understood this. She understood that she could not be big without falling into vanity. She saw that she was given a little, hidden path, and she saw how beautiful it was.
An image she spoke of that continues to resonate with me nearly a decade after I first read it is of her as a sparrow, so little that it could not fly to the heights of heaven on its own. She knew she could not attain holiness or the heights on her own and so she called upon the other great saints, the eagles, as she called them, to help her fly all the way to heaven and Jesus, her love. And they did. More remarkably, she became the sparrow that flew straight to heaven and who now leads other little souls there. She flies to heaven and back to us again and again and again– the tiny sparrow who could not fly high enough on her own, now flies this distance all the time. Thérèse allowed God complete reign in her life and allowed Him to enable her to fly the highest of heights and bring others with her.
Humility, meekness, does not come very naturally for me; they are virtues which I must work at every day. But I know them to be the true path to what I most desire: Jesus. Humility is knowing my capabilities and using them to the best of my ability, and not assigning more or less to myself than what I am. That also means recognizing when I’m good at something! Meekness keeps my pride in check, keeps me from seeking visibility for the sake of visibility, for the sake of people seeing how good I am. Humility needs meekness and meekness needs humility. Thérèse cultivated these in herself in spades.
She may not have been seen very much during her lifetime, but she gave up that glory for eternal glory, and look at how well-known she is now! Now this is not to say that everyone who leads a hidden life here on earth will suddenly be known around the world after death, but we will be known in heaven. We will be known down to our deepest core, totally transparent, totally visible, and it will be glorious. It will be worth giving up the earthly glory for. That’s not an easy thing, though; I still desperately want you to see me and I have to struggle with cultivating humility and meekness in my life. But it is a struggle I am glad for and glad to fight through. If it means becoming a saint (and it does) then I want it.
On June 4, 1897, just a few months before she entered heaven, St. Thérèse said to Sister Geneviève, “Don’t be astonished if I don’t appear to you after my death, and if you see nothing extraordinary as a sign of my happiness. You will remember that it’s ‘my little way’ not to desire to see anything. You know well what I’ve said so often to God, to the angels, and to the saints: My desire is not to see them here on earth.” Even in death she didn’t desire to be seen. Thérèse aligned herself so closely with the Heart of God that she no longer desired anything for herself and only desired what He desired for her. For the good of the rest of us, He desired she been seen after her death and she complies.
On this, the feast of the great and wondrous St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, St. Theresa the Little Flower (as she was known to my mother and hence my name), may we entrust ourselves to her Little Way and learn to fly with her to the heights of heaven. Today, I wash the dishes with great care and love, in love for my family who will use them and out of love for the God Who has given these as gifts to me. Today, I crochet with love, for the recipients of these creations, and I take my time because I love a God Who is Creator and allows me to participate in this minute way in His creative power. Today, I write with great love, for my big sister St. Thérèse, for you who reads this, for me as a gratitude for my abilities, and for God Who is indescribable. May my life be but a petal of one of the roses she has showered upon earth in her eternal life.
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” St. Thérèse, pray for us.