St. Therese of Lisieux Feast Day reminds us of “”Little Way”
By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago
October 1st is the feast day in the Catholic Church of a very well known and beloved nun who became a Saint. Also known by the title, “The Little Flower,” the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux falls each year on the first day of this month.
She was born in 1873 in the small town of Lisieux in the northern part of France a little northwest of Paris. Her parents were merchants with nine children only five of whom survived. St. Therese grew up in obscurity and at the age of fifteen entered the Carmelite monastery and became a nun. She died in 1897 at the age of twenty-four of tuberculosis.
St. Therese had high ambitions of becoming a great saint. She wanted so much to do great things in the name of God that would bring many souls to Him. At one point, she had wanted to go off to the mission territories in the hopes of becoming a martyr for the faith. Those opportunities were not given to her. St. Therese was often sickly even as a young child. In the convent, illness prevented her from spending much time doing anything except for her simple life in the monastery.
Test One’s Faith
At times, St. Therese was disappointed. She had hoped to do marvelous feats of bravery to demonstrate her immense love for God. Eventually, what St. Therese learned was that it was not necessarily by great acts of faith that would prove her undying love for God and His People. Instead, St. Therese discovered the “little way” where every act of kindness and charity, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is already a powerful demonstration of her love for God. When done with the deepest sense of holiness and concern for the other person, even the simplest of acts can have a powerful impact on the life of another person and, as a result, bring a soul closer to God. In this profound insight, St. Therese’s influence has touched the lives of Catholics even to this day.
Before she died, St. Therese had written that she wanted to spend her time in heaven by doing good on earth describing those good deeds as flowers being showered down to earth from heaven. Many Catholics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries have looked to her for prayers and intercession.
St. Therese teaches us that it is not necessarily by tremendous acts of bravery that become a test of one’s faith and dedication to God. To become a great saint does not necessarily require that a person perform such powerful demonstrations of faith and love. Instead, it is by the simple things we do each and every day that we can show our love for God. It is also made known by doing ordinary everyday acts with an extraordinary awareness that we are loved by God and do those things out of love.
Doctor of the Church
Therefore, along these lines, every act of kindness we show to another human being is an expression of the “little way” taught by St. Therese. We may think that our generosity is insignificant but the small gesture creates a ripple effect that we may never see. We just never know how our good deeds will impact the life of another human being. It may just be by a simple act of love that will help convert a wandering soul.
Furthermore, the simple things we may do every day for the benefit of another person can also be part of the “little way” to holiness. Something mundane as washing the dishes can be a powerful statement of faith if only it is done with the awareness that we do it out of love for another human being. As St. Paul wrote, without love, we are simply a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1). When we do everything with that profound sense of love for the people around us—whether they be family, friends, or strangers—that simple act becomes a huge statement of faith. It leads us to greater holiness and invites others to follow the same path.
Today, St. Therese is considered to be a Doctor of the Church. That is, her teachings and writings have had such a profound influence on the lives of Catholics throughout the modern centuries that St. Therese is considered to be an “expert” to whom people can turn for answers. May St. Therese, the Little Flower continue to show us the “little way” to holiness.