By Denise Moore —
It’s hard to believe but not only are we starting a new year, we are stepping into a new decade! For me, 2019 was a blur and I seemed to watch it fly by no matter how hard I tried to Be Still. I’m not particularly fond of New Year’s resolutions; they are just another chance for failure. New beginnings, however, are a whole other story. They are an opportunity to begin again, to live into my true created self. New beginnings aren’t as much about my actions as they are about how I perceive myself. I can be made anew and move toward the person I was created to be.
I’m lucky. I have known from the age of nine that my purpose in life is to love. It’s no wonder then that when I discovered St. Therese of Lisieux who wrote, “Then overcome by joy, I cried, ‘Jesus, my love. At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love,’” I was enamored. Even though there was a Little Flower church in the community that I lived for many years, I only recently learned about her. Born Marie-Therese Martin on January 2, 1873, St. Therese is best known as the Little Flower and known for her “little way.”
At the age of nine, Therese first asked permission to join Lisieux’s Carmelite Convent. Her motivations were to do something great for God and for others. She actually thought of herself as the next Joan of Arc; she believed that she was “born for glory.” It wasn’t until six years later, however (and only after a bold request to Pope Leo XIII), that she entered the convent at age fifteen. Soon she realized that she was not meant for greatness (at least not the way the world sees greatness) so she would have to accomplish her great acts for God with simple, ordinary acts of love and charity toward others. In her biography Story of A Soul she wrote, “How shall I show my love is proved by deeds? Well – the little child will strew flowers…she will embalm the Divine Throne with their fragrance, will sing with silvery voice the canticle of love. Yes, my Beloved, it is thus that my life’s brief day shall be spent before Thee. No other means have I of proving my love than to strew flowers; that is, to let no little sacrifice escape me, not a look, not a word, to avail of the very least actions and do them for Love. I wish to suffer for Love’s sake and for Love’s sake even to rejoice; thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without shedding its petals for Thee…and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns – and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song.” And that is how she lived never overlooking an opportunity to love.
A couple of years after entering the convent, and after much internal struggling she volunteered to assist Sister St. Pierre, a pain stricken, difficult older nun. Sister St. Pierre needed extra time and help getting from the choir area to dinner. Therese knew the older sister was difficult to please but felt called to help. She patiently, slowly walked alongside her elder trying her best to offer dignity as she held the older nuns belt in case she tripped. Her fears were soon realized when Sister St. Pierre told the eager young Therese, “I was right when I said you were too young to help me!” Therese just smiled and continued her gentle way. Later, the older nun admitted that it was Therese’s smile that had won her approval. Therese’s life was characterized by little events done with great love. She always looked for an opportunity to do an extra little gesture for someone with a smile and love in her heart. “I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbours’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”
As I reflect on the coming decade, I want to enter each day and each relationship with the heart of The Little Way. I want to be intentional to do the things I do each and every day with the greatest love. I want to pause and remember so I can look past the things that bother me and see in my neighbor their value and worth. I want to walk into this decade with eyes open to the reality of God around me and the expectation that seemingly insignificant events can have profound spiritual impact and transformation. I want to practice St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way.