The Little Way
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is a great example of a Saint. Saints are know for their intercession and the effect of Saint Thérèse in the world has been so profound and so wide spread, she is really living her dream of “spending her heaven doing good on earth”
Saint Thérèse has such a beautiful relationship with the Lord and it’s this Relationship with Jesus that she shares with the world. She leads so many souls into confidence in their relationship with God. She’s God’s little girl, Dad’s beloved daughter, His little flower. She helps us realise that it isn’t the greatness of St Thérèse that earns her that relationship, but she reveals to us who the Father is like and help remind us of how precious we are in His sight. Christianity is not complicated, we just have to surrender in the arms of Jesus, and allow Him to carry us to the heights of holiness, all we have to do is put our trust in Him and be His little one.
The Little way of St Therese
St. Thérèse of Lisieux has something uniquely special to offer us. She was born at a time in France when Jansenism was rife, a kind of influence on Christianity that was extremely judgmental. It produced a Christianity where God was a God of punishment. But for St Thérèse, who knew Jesus, God was not, this was not the true God of the New Testament, but a God of mercy, tenderness and love. And she is a witness to this.
St. Thérèse had an intense, real and personal relationship with Jesus, and at seventeen, in her youthfulness and giftedness, she was able to make a complete commitment to God. My goodness, did Thérèse understand the meaning of Christ’s gift to us, His life, His death, His resurrection – she became the very embodiment of this. She’s famous for her dedication to the infancy of Jesus, to the holy face of Christ and her love of the cross. But what I want to emphasize here is Thérèse’s doctrine of the ‘little way’.
For St. Thérèse , Christianity is not complicated. God reaches into our lives with the deepest simplicity, the deepest personal love, and the deepest forgiveness. So anything in your life, any aspect of your life that may be troubled or difficult, St. Thérèse will give you a most beautiful and simple way of being with Jesus, of looking to Jesus and of sorting the most difficult and most intractable of problems that can present themselves in our lives.
Her little way is made up of simply surrendering to Jesus with confidence and love. Confidence and trust, going out of fear of God, going out of wondering if God is angry, going out about that kind of wondering and confidently trusting in God’s mercy.
And in that way, our little way is saying “Jesus, I’m not able to do this, but if you come and do it in me, then I will do great things for you.” even that little sentence is enough for our lives. Also “Jesus, I’m not able to rise to this moment in the family, in my life, in myself. But if I surrender to you and you do it in me, all things are possible. All hope is filled in my heart. All the future is good and safe.”
So I pray that St Thérèse, especially for you young people, will be a source of quiet and gentle inspiration, that Christianity is possible. Jesus is really present and near us and loves us. Let us have the confidence and trust to respond to him, reciprocate his love so that our lives may have peace and blessing.
Friar Liam Finnerty, OCD
In St Thérèse of Lisieux’s ‘Story of a Soul’, in chapter ten she writes: “You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a Saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealisable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.”
The Little Way
St Thérèse found her way, and she described it by saying: “I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: “Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me.” This is an easy way that will take her straight to the arms of Jesus – a shorter way that can make her Union with Jesus so quick and fast. St Thérèse was an adult but with those words of Eternal Wisdom St Thérèse had to become like a little one. The little way of going to God is a powerful but simple approach to the Spiritual Life, to Perfection and Union with God.
Step 1: In the arms of Jesus
When St Thérèse describes this little way in her writings, one realises that she highlights complete abandonment being central to this way – abandoning oneself to God who loves us. St Thérèse would always say that when you get tired or feel sleepy while at prayer, go and fall asleep in the arms of Jesus – where He will caress you and see that you have a wonderful rest. This is a little way of total surrender and St Thérèse invites us to surrender ourselves to God and to put ourselves fully into His arms of love and rest. When I reflect on complete abandonment, the thought of a newborn child and how the baby is so vulnerable. The child can neither say ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’ nor make decisions. Everything is done by the mother. The baby doesn’t know what clothes to wear but the mother chooses. The baby doesn’t choose what to eat but the mother knows what is best. The baby doesn’t choose where to go but trusts where the mother goes. Complete abandonment invites us to reflect more with the Psalm 131 where the child rests peacefully in its mother’s arms, and beckons on the soul to hope in God. I also think of a toddler who is learning how to crawl. The toddler might see a staircase and wish to climb its stairs even though it would be difficult. The toddler starts to climb but then begins to cry, someone will come and carry them right to the top or help them feel safe and encouraged to keep climbing. The staircase to perfection and holiness is not always easy to climb, sometimes it can be so difficult that it makes us want to cry or fall into despair. We have to make some effort and then cry out in trust and confidence to Jesus for help. Like with the one who helps the toddler, Jesus will bend down to us and lift us up to Himself. Jesus is looking, waiting for us to cry out to Him for help, and He will lift us up and carry us Himself. This is what St Thérèse is encouraging us to do.
Step 2: Love in the Heart of the Church
An active love engenders all that we are called to do. Love was what St. Thérèse identified as her vocation, and all she did came from the love she had for Jesus. In turn, the Lord carried her to Himself and bestowed on her an unimaginable love, which she sang of through her actions in her daily life. In our Daily lives, sometimes we find it difficult to connect with some of the Saints. We find our neighbours challenging. The Saints show us an active love that gears them up to having wonderful relationships with their neighbours and Jesus gives us a little way to be a Saint here. St Thérèse lived in a Carmelite Convent, where she had daily encounters with her sisters. From her experiences, it wasn’t always easy. The paradox was that when she visited the convent as a little girl, the nuns would always see her, love her, and cherish her. Whenever she came around, they would always say, “Oh, what a lovely child! What a lovely girl! She’s beautiful; she’s lovely. Her childlike attitude is wonderful.” But after joining them as a Nun and living in the same convent, the same Nuns turned back and said, “She is always childish.” They scolded her and made her feel bad. But St Thérèse, having found her vocation, which is love, developed a new style of non- violent love, a style of forgiving, giving excuses for their attitudes, and becoming present to her sisters, even those who maltreated her. When she was a novice mistress, she did not extend those violent ways that she was treated to her novices. No, she transformed all through the love of God and actively loved her sisters, even though some treated her poorly. She was always acting out of love for them, and she drew that love from God.
The Little Lesson from Today
You can always reach out to Jesus and ask Him, “How can I come to you? This is the way I am how can I make that movement to you? I know you are there, waiting for me to make that step. But how can I?” These are the things we can ask Jesus, and He will always welcome us and tell us how to go about it, and of course, lift us up to His arms because he loves us so dearly. St. Thérèse says to you:
In this Little Way, Jesus does not demand much, but surrender and gratitude.
Do not go after too many great things: do not marvel at other people’s great achievements in their spiritual lives.
Do not travel to the clouds if you are unable to; do not swim into the deep ocean for extraordinary deeds.
Never feel discouraged.
You just have to be present to Jesus who is present to you.
You only have to be open to the love of God.
You have to allow yourself to be found and picked up by love.
Are you going through any difficulty in the practice of virtue? You have to begin from the littleness of your abilities.
Allow yourself to travel in that elevator where you can only feel the tender caresses of Jesus.
I, Thérèse found safety in the centre: Being Love at the heart (centre) of the church and being at the centre of Jesus’ arms. It is all bliss.
Let us pray: O Little Flower, St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, please pick for us a rose from the Heavenly Gardens and send it to us as a message of love. Little Flower, give us your childlike faith to see the face of God in the people and experiences of our lives and to love God with good confidence. Obtain for us the grace of complete abandonment, total surrender, and gratitude to Jesus for the love He continues to show us, His little ones. Amen. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, pray for us.