The Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux, on October 1. Therese Martin was born in Alencon, France, in 1873, the youngest of nine children of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin. She entered a Carmelite convent at the age of 15, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. She was encouraged by her superiors to write a memoir of her spiritual journey, and this book, The Story of a Soul, became an instant bestseller. It has been read by millions and translated into more than 50 languages.
Therese’s philosophy was that even a little soul (as she saw herself) could please God by doing “small things with great love.” The quotations from The Story of a Soul below were some that particularly struck me when I read it. Therese is a model of what Jesus meant when He said that “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). In her childlike trust she reached the heights of wisdom.
“The brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily don’t take away the perfume of the lovely violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy… I understood that if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose its springtime adornment, and the fields would no longer be sprinkled with little flowers… So it is in the world of souls, which is Jesus’ garden. He wanted to create great saints who could be compared to lilies and roses. But He also created little ones, and these ought to be content to be daisies or violets destined to gladden God’s eyes when He glances down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wants us to be.” (p. 2-3)
“Our Lord’s love is revealed as well in the simplest souls who doesn’t resist His grace in anything, as in the most sublime of souls.” (p. 3)
“Just as the sun shines at the same time on the tall cedars and on each little flower as if it were the only one on earth, in the same way Our Lord is concerned particularly for every soul as if there were none other like it. And just as in nature all the seasons are arranged in such a way as to cause the humblest daisy to open on the appointed day, in the same way all things correspond to the good of each soul.” (p. 3-4)
“How delicate is the heart of a mother! How it translates its tenderness into a thousand watchful caring acts that no one would think about!” (p. 11)
“God let me feel that true glory is the one that will last forever, and that to obtain it, it isn’t necessary to do outstanding works, but to remain hidden and practice virtue in such a way that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” (p. 70)
“I still feel the same audacious confidence that I’ll become a great Saint. That’s because I’m not counting on my merits, since I have none, but I hope in the One who is Virtue, Holiness itself. It is He alone who, being content with my feeble efforts, will raise me up to Himself, and covering me with His infinite merits, will make me a Saint.” (p.71)
“How sweet was the first kiss of Jesus on my soul!… It was a kiss of love. I felt myself loved, and I also said, “I love You, I give myself to You forever.” (p. 77, describing her first Holy Communion)
“Joy isn’t found in the objects that surround us; it’s found in the innermost recesses of the soul. One can possess it as well in a prison as in a palace.” (p. 156)
“Poor women, how they are disparaged!… However, they love God in much greater numbers than men, and during the Passion of our Lord, the women had more courage than the apostles (Luke 23:27) since they braved the insults of the soldiers and dared to wipe the adorable face of Jesus… It’s no doubt for that reason that He allows scorn to be their lot on earth, since He chose that for Himself… In heaven He’ll know how to show that His thoughts are not man’s thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9), because then the last will be first (Matthew 20:16).” (As an aside, I love what she writes immediately after this: “More than once during the trip, I didn’t have the patience to wait for heaven in order to be first.”) (p. 159)
“To those whose faith is as small as a mustard seed, He grants miracles and makes mountains move, in order to strengthen that faith, which is so tiny. But for his cherished ones, for his Mother, he doesn’t do miracles until He has tested their faith. Didn’t he let Lazarus die, even though Martha and Mary had told Him that he was sick? (John 11:3)… At the wedding at Cana, when the Blessed Virgin asked Jesus to help his hosts, didn’t he answer her that His hour had not yet come? (John 2:1-11)… But after that testing, what a reward! Water changes into wine… Lazarus is raised from the dead!” (p. 162)
“My mortifications consisted in breaking my will, which was always ready to impose itself; in holding my tongue instead of answering back; in doing little things for others without hoping to get anything in return.” (p. 164)
“The closer we get to God, the simpler we become God” (p. 171). One of the older nuns, complimenting St. Therese on the simplicity of her soul, told her this.
“Ordinarily He [Jesus] gives His light little by little… The more advances on this path [to perfection], the farther one believes oneself from being near the end. So now I’m resigned to seeing myself as always imperfect, and in that I find my joy.” (p. 180)
Photos: Saint Therese at age 13 (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).