I love her story because it is one of simplicity. Many of our popular saints are popular because they founded 12 different orders or established hospitals and schools left and right. But it must be true that God raises the lowly, because today’s saint never did build a school or hospital. She did very little out of the ordinary.
Thérèse’s autobiography puts her ordinary life into words nicely:
I want to seek a way to heaven, a new way, very short, very straight–the way of trust and self-surrender…I am a very little soul, who can offer only little things to Our Lord.
And it is this reason that she is known as the “little flower.” She didn’t aspire to be the biggest rose in the garden or even one of the big pretty flowers everyone notices quickly. No, she saw herself as a little flower, whose only goal was to bloom where God had planted her. Here it is in her words:
Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.
Thérèse was born in France in 1873 and was one of nine children. Four of them died, and the five surviving ALL entered the convent eventually.
Thérèse was interested in this kind of life for a long time, even as a little girl she drempt of serving God in the religious life as the bride of Christ. At 14, she was very adament about it but her father (her mother died when Thérèse was 5) and her bishop refused to let her become a nun at such an early age.
That year, her father and sisters went to Rome, where she had the opportunity to kiss Pope Leo XIII’s ring and to receive a blessing and medal from him. She was instructed not to talk, but when she got up to him, she said to him: “Please let me enter Carmel at age fifteen.”
The Pope said it was fine as long as the superiors agreed. Thérèse said, “No one would argue with you! If you say it’s okay, it will happen.” The Pope replied: “If it is God’s will, it will happen.”
It happened! She became a nun at age 15.
Interestingly, she had a great desire to do mission work, but her poor health eliminated that as an option. She dealt with tuberculois for some time before she died at 24. Yet, the beauty is, because Thérèse offered every little thing in her life to God on behalf of those who worked in missions, she is now the patron saint of missions. Even though she never went on one.
Hers was the simple, “little” way to God that wasn’t as little as it is made out to be. Her life was one of sacrafice, but sacrafice that, done out of love, brought her nothing but joy. Her life is testimony that where there’s true love, sacrafice is easy.
She knew it was love that mattered: “What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.”
Her life is summed up in her last words: “My God, I love you.” Her life proved it!
St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Pray for us!