Today, 1st of October, is the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a young Carmelite nun who died when she was just 24 years old (in 1897). She is one of my favourite saints, you know one of those you consider ‘friends’. I do think saints are friends we have in heaven and those we love the most somehow have wisdom that can help us most to grow in this life. But, perhaps strangely, for some of them you also ‘feel’ (even though you can neither explain nor prove it) that not only that you know them, they know you, too. I guess that’s what communion of saints means, the unity of the Church in heaven with us here on earth. I’d say this is especially true for Thérèse, because before she died she said, “I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth”.
I’m sitting here, a lantern is lit on my desk, and I’m thinking what to say about Thérèse, why is she one of my favourite saints. The simplistic answer would be, ‘well, because she was a Carmelite’. Carmelites are best teachers about the depths of God’s love and about inner life. Carmel is the school of love (who wouldn’t be attracted to learn more about that?). For them God is not only personal, He is intimate, He is a lover. And Thérèse makes it even easier on us, all we need is to be ‘little’, to not be overwhelmed with our limitations (or sins), and to trust that God’s goodness is with us and guiding us, regardless if we can see it or not. Easy to do and live like that? Not really.
Thérèse entered Carmel when she was 15, unusually early. She lived a hidden life of prayer and “wanted to be unknown”, but became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography, “The Story of a Soul”. In a way during her life she did nothing ‘big’, externally it appeared she lived a very ordinary life. Yet she did every little thing with great love, and she turned ordinary into extraordinary. She did something that most of us couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) do, she showed love in many practical ways to a nun who extremely annoyed her. The most remarkable of it all is that she never left a convent, as she belonged to an enclosed order, and yet now she is considered a patron saint of missionaries (!). Why? Because she was first a missionary through her prayer. During her life she knew two missionary priests and she prayed for them and their ministry regularly. Later on when she was quite ill with tuberculosis and feeling weak, she would go into the garden of the monastery and walk and pray for those missionaries, offering her own suffering for them so that they can have strength to do whatever they were called to do. I would probably moan ‘why is this so painful, why this, why that’, and she instead turned her pain into prayer.
So, I hope I explained at least a little why I love her. She was and is remarkable. Even though she is known as a little flower, I think it would’t be wrong to also call her ‘a little giant’.
She said, “Just as the sun shines on all the trees and flowers as if each were the only one on earth, so does God care for all souls in a special manner.” – may we each experience this truth and may the petals of roses from heaven bring graces to our lives so that our path may be filled with God’s love. Happy feast 🙂
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 1st October 2014)